“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 the journey and waved goodbye and ‘slipped the surly bonds of earth’ to ‘touch the face of God.'” – President Ronald Reagan, Jan. 28, 1986
Today is the 28th anniversary of the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster and the deaths of the seven astronauts aboard. Here is a segment of the MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour report from that night that public television audiences across the United States watched as they tried to make sense of the day’s events. In it, you will see Judy Woodruff reporting on each of the seven astronauts, an in-depth interview with teacher Christa McAuliffe who died on board, and President Reagan’s address to the nation from that afternoon that concluded with the powerful quote at the top of this post.
Watch The Space Age: NASA’s Story at 8 p.m. Tuesdays in May on Wisconsin Public Television.
Described as the final frontier, space exploration has fascinated humans for centuries. It was the focus of science fiction until technology advanced and the space race heated up as countries around the world tried to achieve a number of firsts beyond the bounds of Earth. In the United States, those efforts have been led since 1958 by NASA.
The organization has taken men to the moon, sent observing crafts to the far reaches of the solar system and has uncovered countless new technologies along the way. For myself, the shuttle program has been the physical manifestation of space exploration for most of my life. So, as that program reaches its final stages, this in-depth program about NASA’s history comes at a bittersweet moment. But, even though the shuttle program is set to come to an end soon, our adventurers’ spirit and explorers’ instincts will not. I hope this transition marks the beginning of a new generation of exploration.
While the final mission of the Shuttle Endeavor has been delayed, take a look at the shuttle’s mission overview in this interactive feature.