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A Season for NASA Disaster Anniversaries

We are right in the season where some of NASA’s worst space disasters occurred.

I can very much remember January 27, 1967, when three astronauts died in a fire in the Apollo space capsule that was, if I remember right, on a launch pad at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The solo flights, sub-orbital and orbital, had taken place along with the Gemini flights, each with a two-man crew.

Apollo I was being tested. It was a Saturday morning, and I had a dentist appointment. It seems to me we heard about it on the way home. The three astronauts died of asphyxiation.

January 28, 1986 is one that more people probably remember. The shuttle Challenger had just been launched when it exploded, killing all seven crew members including Christa McAuliffe, the teacher who was going into space.

During the investigation we heard a lot about o-rings and such. It had seemed that nothing could go wrong, but it did, and horribly. I remember talking to the local teacher-in-space candidate. He called such a disaster “unthinkable.” I believe it was a Tuesday.

Then on February 1, 2003, the shuttle Columbia, also with seven crew members on board, was returning to Earth when disaster struck. It’s hard to believe that was ten years ago.

Space travel has been turned over to the private sector, and I’m wondering how much we will ever know what is out there.

I hope we can learn more.

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