23 years ago today…

23 years ago today the Space Shuttle Challenger experienced a catastrophic failure and disintegrated during ascent.   On twitter, several people are changing their avatars to a simple black square in memory of the crew of STS-51-L and are using the #Remembering_Challenger hashtag to share their recollections of the disaster.

I was working for a vending company at the time, loading sodas into a machine in an auto dealership in San Jose.   My boss called me over to the waiting room where they had it on TV.

The brave men and women of the crew chose to risk their lives to extend science.  Their bravery is an inspiration.  But, even more of an inspiration are the people who have chosen to also risk their lives in space since that day.   Challenger was STS-51-L.  The current mission is STS-119.   There have been a total of 754 people  lofted into space, and a significant number of those came after STS-51-L.  ( NOTE: This number contains some duplicates, people who have flown more than one mission)

I have a personal connection to Challenger as well.  FPOA’s main telescope saw first light in 1986, and was dedicated to STS-51-L, and is named in honor of the mission and crew.

In the 23 years since, FPOA has brought the night sky a bit closer for thousands of visitors, sometimes handling more than a hundred people per night.  Here is a picture from our 2008 ‘Star-B-Que’.  I’m sitting on the steps just to the left of center, behind the rail on the bottom row, sheilding my eyes from the Sun.

What were you doing when you heard the news?

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