The Challenger

Tuned in to AM news radio, the station was covering the launch of the space shuttle Challenger. Launches are a big deal in Florida. We are proud to be the home of Cape Canaveral. The development of the space program and manned space flight came about in my lifetime. Florida citizens were groomed to pay attention to launches.

The Challenger had special significance. One of the crew members was Christa McAuliffe, who was a school teacher. She was the first teacher to be selected to go into space.

The cool thing about being in Florida during a launch is that the terrain is so flat, you can see the launch from a distance. It’s something you stop and watch when you can.

My vantage point was pretty good. I was heading east. The launch site was on my windshield. The day was cold and clear. No clouds to obscure the view.

We know what happened next. The launch occurred. Even 90 miles away you could see the vapor trails as it ascended. About a minute into the launch, the trail zigged and zagged.

I can remember thinking that it didn’t look right. Launches arced, they didn’t zag.

Mission control commentary lagged what we could see. They didn’t expect a zig either. Eventually, mission control stated that there was a “malfunction.” Minutes later the malfunction was explained. “The capsule had exploded.”

A lot of you weren’t alive when this took place. I still have a vivid memory of it.

Believe it or not, CNN was a new thing back then. Their coverage of this event was extensive, and our eyes were trained on the coverage was extensive.

Ron McNair was an engineer that was on the crew. Somewhere, CNN found a video clip of him speaking in a church somewhere. He was a good speaker, and he was sharing about the special opportunity he was getting to go to space.

He said something in that sermon I’ve never forgotten. He reminded us how achievements occur. Here’s what he said:

“If you want to do something great, you have to be willing to step over the edge.”

When I’m reminded of the Challenger, McNair’s quote pops into my head. When things get dicey, and some “happening to the world” is called for, I’ve relied on that wisdom. Maybe you can too.