“The future doesn’t belong to the fainthearted.” –President Ronald Reagan
It’s one of those few moments in history that is burned into the memories of most people alive at the time. 30 years ago on a clear but cold Florida morning, the Space Shuttle Challenger lifted off with 6 NASA astronauts and one special crew member on board. The shuttle missions were fascinating on their own, but this mission carried Christa McAuliffe, a high school teacher from New Hampshire, who had become all our teacher.
As people paused their days and watched on television screens around the world, including school children from all over the country, millions witnessed what is still today one of the worst tragedies of the American Space Program.
The nation was stunned and horrified. That day in January was also scheduled to be the President’s State of the Union address. For the only time in modern history, the speech was cancelled. Instead, then President Ronald Reagan spoke to a grieving nation, and closed his remarks with powerful words that will live on forever:
“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 their journey and waved goodbye and ‘slipped the surly bonds of earth’ to ‘touch the face of God.’”
The President’s speech also issued a clear message to NASA, to the country, and to the world. We would continue the important journey of space exploration. There would be more shuttle flights, more missions, and indeed, there were.
The Space Shuttle fleet helped to broaden humankind’s exploration of space for three decades. Cosmic Front: Space Shuttle on CuriosityStream has the dramatic story of all the triumphs and tragedies until the fleet’s final flight in 2011.
The U.S. Space Program is in a new phase, working to stay on the leading edge of scientific discovery. CuriosityStream offers a substantial selection of programming about the past, present and future of space exploration. Check out Curiosity Studios’ original documentary Mars: The Journey for an in depth look at efforts to land humans on the red planet. And watch our original 13-part series Destination: Pluto about the New Horizons mission to explore the dwarf planet and the outer edges of deep space.
And as we look forward, we will always remember that clear but cold morning in Florida.