We remember, in 1986, as a third-grader in a Louisiana elementary school, being herded into the auditorium to watch the launch of the Challenger space shuttle on television. We remember our teachers being thoroughly excited to watch as one of their own, teacher Christa McAuliffe, became the first educator to enter the frontiers of outer space. We remember, too, the looks of confusion, dawning horror and then grief, as the Challenger exploded.
For previous generations, the deaths of John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr., were the defining moments for our parents (and in some cases, grandparents). For the current generation, it was the attack on the World Trade towers. For our generation, though, it was the Challenger’s explosion – that was the moment at which we, as children of the 1980′s, realized that sometimes, dreams of the future end in tragedy, and as we watched the disaster unfold, we all grew up just a little bit.
Today, 25 years later, the anniversary of the Challenger explosion comes as NASA’s space shuttle program takes its final breaths. According to multiple Associated Press reports, the fleet will be retired after three more flights this year to the International Space Station.
It’s the end of an era, marked with a somber memorial service this morning at Florida’s Kennedy Space Center. Find out more about the space shuttle program at http://history.nasa.gov/sts51l.html.