Jan 282016

So there I was, sitting in a classroom, bored out of my mind, when all of a sudden the PA system woke up with a screech. Someone in the administrative offices had a TV on and was watching the Shuttle Challenger launch, saw it explode, and turned on the PA system and stuck the microphone up to the TV speaker. The classroom sorta froze for a few seconds, since nobody knew what was going on; the audio of course started up in mid sentence. When the speaker finally said something along the lines of “the space shuttle has exploded,” several students, myself included, packed up our stuff and bolted from the room, dashing towards the library. A whole lot of other kids and teachers had the same idea, with the result that hundreds tried to pack in to see the one TV in the place.

Boy, did that day *suck.*

Here’s the live CNN coverage. Note that the reporter is speaking when Challenger explodes… and, unlike current news reporting practice, he shuts up. Rather than a stream of unending blather, he lets the story speak for itself for a moment. Granted, he was likely shocked, but still…

Here’s some “behind the scenes at CNN:”

Here’s one hour of CNN coverage, from 11:00 to 12:00 (the explosion is at about 11:38):


And from 12:00 to 1:00:


It’s difficult to say that there was a bright spot in that day, but if there was, it was President Reagan. Originally scheduled to deliver the State of the Union address that night, he instead delivered a necessarily hastily-written address to the nation on Challenger… surely one of the great speeches in American political history.



 Posted by at 10:58 am
  • sferrin

    Was dicking around with a rivet gun in the aircraft structures lab at USU when it came over the radio. It was live and so scatter brained that one couldn’t tell if they were saying it’d been shot down, blew up on the pad, blew up in the air, or crash landed.

  • James

    I remember watching 911 happen while at school. Everyone was watching where the first plane had struck we were talking wondering what happened. Then…..second hit and a school of over a thousand went absolutely silent for almost a minute.

    Then as we were sitting there about two or three of us guys said, “were at war” or something like it. Will remember it for as long as I live I hope.

    One day…

  • Pantagruel

    It was kinda creepy for me. Just a few days before I got into a nerd agreement with a friend, after I made a off hand comment, referring to the upcoming flight, that one of these days they were going to crash one. Probably due to the SRMs because you can’t turn them off. My buddy insisted that can’t be right, there must be some way to stop them, NASA wasn’t that stupid.

    Never been more sorry to be right in my life.

  • xvdougl

    Amazing how he foreshadowed the event by mentioning “more delays than NASA cares to count”.

  • Bruce

    Forgive me for sounding stupid….maybe….but until recently when watching the Saturn 5
    liftoff and the Space Shuttles that I noticed how they ignite the fuel mixture externally if

    you notice by shooting sparks into the exhaust of the vehicle. I still remember though

    that day and it was sad.

    • Scottlowther

      The shower of sparks is not to ignite the engines, but to ignite and unburned fuel in liquid or vapor form that may come out. The idea is you want to ignite this stuff *early* so that it doesn’t have a chance to collect and build up a large quantity that may explode and cause damage.