Thursday, January 28, 2016

30 Years After the Challenger Disaster

Just about half a lifetime ago, I was working for Stratus Computer in Hudson Massachusetts. During group meetings, we sometimes saw the famous wheelchair Boston marathoners Dick and Rick Hoyt train around the nearby reservoir. I had to run an errand at lunch. I was listening to the Challenger launch on the car radio as I was driving back to work...and...suddenly

....things were not going right.

I got back to work and ran upstairs where the word was already spreading. No Web with live video in those days, but everyone had E-mail, some people could lurk on USENET groups during the day and many had radios in their offices. One of the engineers had a little TV which he brought into the outer office. We just stood and watch replays of the take-off in shock for at least 20 minutes.

Most computer people were gung-ho space people so this was very traumatic for us.

It was also personal. Christa McAuliffe's younger sister Lisa was a Stratus employee. She was in Florida to watch her sister's launch.

A few months later, we planted a tree outside of Building 1 in Marlboro in honor of Christa. While Stratus hasn't been at that location in many years, I'll try to remember to visit that spot this spring to see if the tree is still there.

As an almost 30-year-old, I was cynical having already lived through the assassination of a president, deaths of 3 astronauts in the Apollo 1 fire in 1967, the Viet Nam War, Watergate, the ERA failing to pass and the election of Reagan. But I always loved space travel unreservedly. Still do.

It's one strong symbol of progress, of looking forward, of taking that next giant leap for mankind.

Thinking about the Challenger and Stratus, made me dig out and digitize a photo of myself from the winter of 1986, while at a party at Stratus one Friday afternoon, and a 2015 photo with my sister-in-law, nephew & niece

March 1986 December 2015

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