Slipping the Surly Bonds of Earth
I was a freshman in high school in January of 1986. I remember being in the hallway between classes and passing Jonathon Silberlicht — a name I probably would have forgotten long ago otherwise — one day when he asked me what I thought about the Space Shuttle. He seemed rather glib, and I hadn't heard any news yet, so the weight of the question didn't sink in and I don't think I even bothered to say anything to him.

So within the next hour every TV in the school was on and we were being given an opportunity to talk about the Challenger disaster even as much of the news of what had happened and how was still trickling out. It was really significant, since that was the flight with Christa McAuliffe, and the launch had been in the news and somewhat relevant to high school students.

I remember quite a bit of the aftermath, when there were discussions of whether the Shuttle should have been designed with an escape hatch (chances are such an accident wouldn't have been survivable even if there were one), whether the Shuttle program would be restarted, the early talk of O-rings, all of it. I especially remember that President Reagan — if nothing else a great orator — had quoted from High Flight in his address to the nation, and since I'd been a night owl and a fan of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy I knew that poem well from the signoff on the Tulsa PBS affiliate (KOED).

Because of this I'm not looking forward to the inevitable statement from George W. Bush. Reagan's address was well-written and well-delivered. Bush will be lucky to have a good speech (I haven't been all that impressed so far) and it's going to be beyond his abilities, I fear, to carry it off with any sort of gravitas.

More ... (11:52 EST, Sat 1 February 2003)