“Obviously A Major Malfunction”

Many blogs (and Google) are commemorating the 50th anniversary of Lego blocks on this date. I’m told via news release that the shining moment occurs at 1:58 p.m.

On this date, at 8:39 a.m. Pacific Time in 1986, Michael J. Smith, Dick Scobee, Ronald McNair, Ellison Onizuka, Christa McAuliffe, Gregory Jarvis, and Judith Resnik, five of them parents, died aboard the space shuttle Challenger.

By that time, shuttle missions had become routine and often ignored, but this time the first member of the Teacher in Space Project was aboard. Classes that weren’t watching the event live may have been after-the-fact. My eighth grade science teacher rolled in a TV after the news broke. It’s probably an indelible memory in many of our minds and should remain so.

This reminder via Neatorama, though this reminder isn’t very neat.


13 Responses to ““Obviously A Major Malfunction””

  1. Beckie says:

    I remember, I was home watching with my mom.

    January 28th, 2008 at 1:39 pm

  2. adrienne says:

    Wow. What a coming of age memory for our generation. I was in 7th grade. The build-up had been huge as they were sending an elementary teacher- and I know many classrooms were planning to tune into science lessons from space.

    The reporters kept reporting as if the astronauts had some chance of survival. I’ve always wondered if they did that only because so many kids were watching or if they actually held out hope of a happy ending. Either way, I think it encouraged new levels of cynicism in our generation.

    January 28th, 2008 at 2:48 pm

  3. Marge says:

    Thank you for sharing, for those of us that weren’t of school age at the time I feel that it is important to relieve this moments and remember what has happened in the past. Even the moments that don’t go as planned.

    January 28th, 2008 at 3:48 pm

  4. Sherri Edman says:

    I agree, this was a defining moment. I didn’t see it live, but my mom told me about it in the car on the way to school– I think she would rather have not, but there was no way I wouldn’t hear about it at school. I was in 4th grade, and I didn’t appreciate fully the horror that their families watched them die until I was a little older. Yikes.

    January 28th, 2008 at 6:45 pm

  5. Jennifer says:

    I remember the news coming over the speaker in the classroom from the office. And I remember my third grade teacher crying as we heard the new. I don’t know that we all realized what had happened, but it was quickly explained to us.

    January 28th, 2008 at 7:03 pm

  6. Chief Family Officer says:

    I don’t remember how old I was, but I do remember that I was living in Japan at the time and heard the news when I woke up one morning. I guess it’s because of Christa McAuliffe that the shuttle mission was a big deal to me and I remember being so sad at hearing the news. Even at that age, I understood the tragedy.

    January 28th, 2008 at 8:11 pm

  7. jill says:

    wow 1986?? I could have sworn I was younger… but I remember seeing it on TV in school. I guess it must have been Junior year in HS…

    January 28th, 2008 at 8:32 pm

  8. My Boaz's Ruth says:

    “On this date, at 2:39 p.m. Pacific Time in 1986″

    Couldn’t have been. I was still in school, in Texas and Pacific Time is 2 hours behind central. (In fact I was pulled out of gym when the Challenger exploded)

    Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_Shuttle_Challenger_disaster says 11:39 am EST (so 10:39a my time, 8:39am Pacific time…)

    I don’t recall anything about “thinking they might survive” or feeling any more cynical after this, although I did collect all the Houston Chronicles for a while. I thought this was the end of the space program.

    January 29th, 2008 at 8:52 am

  9. AJ says:

    Now that’s what I call an indelible memory. Good catch. I added 3 hours instead of subtracted them. I’ve corrected the timestamp.

    I saved the next day’s newspaper and found it again when going through boxes last year. I had saved it because I recalled seeing my grandfather’s newspaper from when the RMS Titanic sank.

    January 29th, 2008 at 9:06 am

  10. My Boaz's Ruth says:

    PS according to Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_Shuttle_Challenger_disaster

    They had reason to think the crew might have survived. “Had there been a true explosion, the entire shuttle would have been instantly destroyed, killing the crew at that moment. The more robustly constructed crew cabin and SRBs survived the breakup of the launch vehicle; while the SRBs were subsequently detonated remotely, the detached cabin continued along a ballistic trajectory, and was observed exiting the cloud of gases at T+75.237.”

    Likely, they died at the moment of impact with the ocean, NOT at the breakup. “During vehicle breakup, the robustly constructed crew cabin detached in one piece and slowly tumbled. NASA estimated separation forces at about 12 to 20 times the force of gravity (g) very briefly; however, within two seconds, the forces on the cabin had already dropped to below 4 g, and within ten seconds the cabin was in free fall. These forces were likely insufficient to cause major injury. At least some of the astronauts were likely alive and briefly conscious after the breakup, because three of the four Personal Egress Air Packs (PEAPs) on the flight deck were found to have been activated. Investigators found their remaining unused air supply roughly consistent with the expected consumption during the 2 minute 45 second post-breakup trajectory. Whether the astronauts remained conscious long after the breakup is unknown, and largely depends on whether the detached crew cabin maintained pressure integrity. If it did not, time of useful consciousness at that altitude is just a few seconds; the PEAPs supplied only unpressurized air, and hence would not have helped the crew to retain consciousness. The crew cabin hit the ocean surface at roughly 334 km/h (207 mph), causing an instantaneous deceleration of over 200 g, far beyond the structural limits of the crew compartment or crew survivability levels.”

    (Interestingly, I recently learned that there has not been 1 case of a commercial airplane surviving a crash landing in the ocean. The force of hitting the water appears to be the problem here too)

    January 29th, 2008 at 9:07 am

  11. Troy says:

    Wow, I didn’t realize that today was the day. So sad… I remember all of the build-up surrounding the launch. Scholastic promoted it heavily in their Weekly Readers. I don’t recall hearing about the tragedy at school (I attended a very small school), but I do remember watching the post-crash television coverage in silence with my mother. Even at 8 years old, the enormity of the event left its mark on me.

    January 29th, 2008 at 1:09 pm

  12. Kit says:

    Wow. I was just a few months old when the Challenger exploded, just about the same age as my triplets are now… Makes you think, I guess. I didn’t see any stories on the Lego anniversary until the day after it showed up on the Google home page, so that might have helped the story a bit.

    February 2nd, 2008 at 6:05 pm

  13. Elliott Kim - 21st Century Dad says:

    I was in 6th grade, and 6th grade boys are more concerned with other things. I understood the loss of life, but life went on. There were Transformers and GI Joes to play with.

    This is in stark contrast to my reaction to the more recent Shuttle Columbia disaster. I cried when I saw the newspaper the next day.

    There are many defining moments in history. My stepson has only sketchy recall of 9/11. He was only 7. He was just mad that recess and his favorite TV shows were all canceled that day. Now, it’s but an indistinct memory and (*groan*) yet another thing to remember for history class.

    February 3rd, 2008 at 12:31 am

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