"Roger, go at throttle up."

I was meaning to write about this back on the 28th of last month but somehow never found the time to do it. While reading John's America in Space blog this morning this entry reminded me that I was going to mention it.

After 20 years I still have very vivid memories of the loss of Challenger. I was in my second and final year at York College of Arts and Technology, studying an OND in Computer Studies (apologies to those not from the UK who might not understand what that means). I'd got home a little earlier than normal that evening and happened to walk into the living room of my parents' house just as John Craven's Newsround was starting. I didn't pay it much attention at first but, when footage of the Shuttle launch came on, it caught my eye.

The reason it caught my eye was that, by 1986, for most popular media the Shuttle was old news — it wasn't at all unusual for a launch to happen and it only get a passing mention on the TV. I stared at the TV while feeling rather suspicious, wondering if something had gone wrong.

It had.

I can still recall the feelings: I was shocked, horrified, devastated, amazed and confused.

And, even today, when I see the footage and hear the quote I used for the title for this entry, it still stirs up some strong emotions.

Fast forward to 2003-02-01 and the loss of Columbia (something I was meaning to write about yesterday). That day I was in my baby son's bedroom, putting together a flat-pack wardrobe, when my wife came in with the telephone. "It's Nick," she said. Nick's a friend and co-worker although we seldom, if ever, talk at weekends (we both work from home in different parts of the UK). "Odd," I thought, "why would he be calling me on a weekend?" I took the phone off my wife and he asked "Are you watching the news?"

Needless to say, the wardrobe got left for a couple of hours.

File Under: Space Shuttle, Challenger, Columbia.

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