I just now realized that while today is the 25th anniversary of Challenger's most-remembered moment, we're only 4 days away from the 8th anniversary of Columbia's crash.
And the Apollo 1 fire was 44 years ago yesterday! I guess this isn't a good time of year for space nerds who commemorate such things. Or, dare I say it? It's not a good time of year to schedule risky space adventures?
Anyway, Challenger was a big deal for me because I was about a quarter-century old at the time, and it was the last major thing I remember before I lost my mind.
The news items today have a lot of details that try to convey what a big deal it was at the time. It wasn't until a Norwescon maybe ten years ago, that the "seven-seconds" idea made its way to me. And now that's the image that sticks: Challenger was seven seconds away from having been all right.
Which is nonsense. All the best mnemonics are nonsense: that's what allows them to stick in our brains.
Here's what it really means: the solid rocket boosters were somewhat notorious for their dangerous behavior. The hot jet of gas that caused challenger to disintegrate, had occurred before. But the burn-through occurred *after* separation, when they couldn't hurt the external tank. The scariest instance before 51L, blew out seven seconds after. (and I don't know which mission that was. It's frustrating to try to find out this long after the fact.)
That's almost all I can think of to say about this that makes any sense to me. Is it relevant? Should we care about this space program, or any others? I am on friendly terms with people who really don't care much at all.
What bubbles up to me right now is a quote from less than a year ago, heard aboard the deepwater horizon: "Are you happy now? The rig's on fire!"
In both disasters, there were people who saw it coming, and they were not listened to.
(I guess that's really the reason I'm able to forgive the Apollo 1 fire but not the Columbia crash...)
Ending *this* epoch of our manned space program has been the best thing Obama has done so far, in my opinion. It'll take a different president to start a new one, I think.