In 73 Seconds, We Lost Two Remarkable Women On the Challenger
In just 73 seconds, what might have been the most magnificent mission, turned into a televised tragedy. In 1986, the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded in flight off the coast of Cape Canaveral taking seven remarkable lives.
Today, we look back on the "Challenger's Seven," a group of talented astronauts, and reflect on the promising lives lost, including Christa McAuliffe, a mother would have become the first teacher and civilian in space, and Judith Resnik, an engineer and mission specialist.
She inspired many who thought ordinary civilians couldn't possibly travel to the unknown. But Christa's story was also anything but ordinary. In 1984 Christa McAuliffe, a secondary school social studies teacher, learned about NASA’s new initiative to find an educator who had the ability to teach students directly from space. In the summer of 1984 NASA selected McAuliffe for the position. As a teacher and a mother, Christa moved many who heard about her journey. She took a year off from teaching to train as a NASA astronaut for the Challenger mission. Today, she is survived by her husband Steven and two children although she continues to inspire students 30 years later.
Judith Resnik was truly a phenomenal scholar. She received her degree in electrical engineering at Carnegie-Mellon University and worked as a staff fellow with the Laboratory of Neurophysiology at the National Institutes of Health between 1974 and 1977 — all in the very early stages of her career. In 1978, Judith was selected to be on the first NASA mission that included women. She also became the second American woman in orbit during the Discovery flight in 1984 and was one of three mission specialists on the Challenger. We know she would have made great strides in continuing to build the foundation for women in space.
Though as we remember these two amazing women, there are also the incredible stories of survivors including the widow of Challenger Commander Dick Scobee, June Scobee Rodgers. She has recently told her story and we are compelled by her strength. In an interview she recalled the time she watched the Challenger launch with Christa's husband and their children by their sides. The moment Christa's son stood by with his nose pressed against the window has not faded from her memory.
"And he wouldn't move," she said. "That little boy stood there, glued."
Today are thoughts are with the survivors of the Challenger, and all the talented astronauts who have passed in space missions.
Get to know MAKER Mae Jemison, the first African-American woman to go to space, by watching her exclusive MAKERS story above.
Photo Credit: NASA/Space Frontiers/Getty Images