Thursday, January 28, 2016

Tales from the Road: Challenger's Last Flight

Seems like for a while there I was on the road when a lot of things happened, but that was bound to be the case given that for a couple decades I spent much of my working life away from home base. Kind of a field-service job with the whole globe as my territory.

With that kind of traveling I was bound to miss a few things. daughter's first steps, a birthday or two, the wife packing up and moving out of the house, you know, the little things. But there were also other notable events that happened while I was on the road, like the bombing of Baghdad in '91 and the fall of the Berlin wall in '89.

In the case of most of those events, I no longer remember exactly where I was when they happened, just that I wasn't home.

But I do know that on Jan 28 of '86 I was in Lafayette Louisiana at the Unocal data center fixing something or installing something or just checking on things. Though not my home base, I spent so much time there that the hotel staff at HoJo's knew me on sight and often gave me one of the 'office' rooms, suites that included a small meeting/office area, for the price of one of the cheap rooms.

I was there so often that one trip bled into the other and I can't give you specifics about any of them, except for that day.

That was the day I, along with most everybody in the building, spent much of crowded around the small TV in the break room as we watched the Challenger explode over and over again while people, some qualified, others not, tried to explain what happened.

We got no answers that day, in fact it wasn't until much later that we, the general public anyway, knew that the shuttle didn't explode at all but rather was torn apart by the mach 2 airstream as it was ripped away from the failing rocket components.

I felt guilty standing there watching the sudden end of those astronaut's lives over and over again, I felt like a cheap voyeur peering in on a most private moment, but I'm just as susceptible as the next guy to the spectacle of horror, so I watched, and watched, and watched. 

Sharon Christa McAuliffe      Payload Specialist
Gregory Jarvis                       Payload Specialist
Judith A. Resnik                    Mission Specialist
Francis R. (Dick) Scobee       Mission Commander
Ronald E. McNair                  Mission Specialist
Mike J. Smith                         Pilot
Ellison S. Onizuka                   Mission Specialist

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