Sometimes we take things for granted. We don’t think twice about having Google answer all our questions until we can’t get an internet connection. We don’t question having running water until the pipes freeze. We assume the light will go on when we flick the switch and only really pay attention when the power goes out.
We assume space shuttles will launch into space the way they’re supposed to—until they don’t.
Not having water or electricity is inconvenient. A mishap with a rocket is catastrophic.
On January 28, 1986, the space shuttle Challenger lifted off from Cape Canaveral, Florida. Seventy-three seconds later, the nation watched in horror as the shuttle exploded. There were no survivors.
The investigation following the disaster determined that the explosion was caused by the failure of an O-ring seal in one of the two solid-fuel rockets due to the cold temperature at the time of the launch. After the Challenger disaster, NASA canceled all manned space missions almost three years.
That particular mission had an unprecedented audience because Christa McAuliffe was on board. She was a teacher from New Hampshire, the first “ordinary” US civilian to travel into space. (She had won a competition to participate in the training and flight.) America was captivated by the idea of civilians in space and tuned in in record numbers to watch the launch.
On this anniversary of the Challenger disaster, we remember the entire crew of that mission and those who died aboard the Columbia shuttle when it disintegrated on re-entry February 1, 2003.
And maybe the next time the electricity goes out for a few minutes we can recognize it as an inconvenience rather than as a disaster.