Slipping the Surly Bonds of Earth…

Posted on January 28, 2013


STS-51-L crew: (front row) Michael J. Smith, Dick Scobee, Ronald McNair; (back row) Ellison Onizuka, Christa McAuliffe, Gregory Jarvis, Judith Resnik.

I skipped school on this day 27 years ago.

It wasn’t the first or the last time I ditched a class but January 28, 1986 is a day I’ll never forget and not because I missed algebra class that day.

I was 15 years old and living in Mesquite, Texas (a Dallas suburb) with my mom and dad and two little brothers, attending South Garland High School.

Luckily for me (not so lucky for my academic career) skipping school wasn’t too hard, I went through the motions, pretended it was another day but after the parents and siblings departed, kicked back to relax and enjoy some peace and quiet.

But at 10:38am that day my Ferris Bueller fantasy came to a screeching halt.

Towards the end of their 30 year career shuttle launches became so routine the TV networks stopped covering them but the day of the Challenger’s final mission the novelty of civilization’s first space plane was still new, plus NASA was launching Americas’ first civilian passenger into space, New Hampshire high school teacher Christa McAuliffe so the publicity surrounding the Challenger flight was even more pronounced and hyped by the news media.

73 seconds into the launch Challenger exploded and millions of us watched 7 people, six astronauts and one schoolteacher, die on our television screens.

Eternal Father, King of birth,
Who didst create the heaven and earth,
And bid the planets and the sun
Their own appointed orbits run;
O hear us when we seek thy grace
For those who soar through outer space.
J. E. Volonte (1961)
We’ve grown used to wonders in this century. It’s hard to dazzle us. But for twenty-five years the United States space program has been doing just that. We’ve grown used to the idea of space, and, perhaps we forget that we’ve only just begun. We’re still pioneers. They, the members of the Challenger crew, were pioneers. 
The crew of the space shuttle Challenger honored us by the manner in which they lived their lives. We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for their journey and waved goodbye and “slipped the surly bonds of earth” to “touch the face of God.”
-President Reagan
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