Friday, January 28, 2011

January 28, 1986

I don't think I'll ever forget where I was 25 years ago today.
I think a lot of people are like that. It's the same as when the day JFK was shot, or 9/11 or Katrina. An event like this just burns itself into your memory forever.

I work in New Orleans East at the Michoud Assembly Facility. We build the External Fuel Tank for the Space Shuttle. On January 28th, 1986 we were all standing around the television in the hallway as we did for every launch. We watched the countdown, the engines firing and the blastoff. When the capcom said "throttle up" our whole world changed. All of us standing there stood in a state of shock for at least 3-5 minutes watching the scene in silence. Eventually the capcom said "obviously a major malfunction" our hearts dropped, we grew sick to our stomachs.
Not knowing the cause of the explosion , we were frightened, wondering if our part of the Shuttle System was to blame. I can never look at the video again.

The next two plus years were very, very painful for everyone involved in the Shuttle Program. There were a lot of investigations going on and a lot of layoffs. We eventually returned to flight and everything flew normally until 2003 when we lost Columbia on February 1, 2003.

Coincidentally, an explosion on Apollo 1 on January 27, 1967 caused the death of three astronauts.

We are now close to the end of the Space Shuttle era, with only two more flights to go. It has been an exhilarating experience to take part in all of these unbelievable endeavors. I'm extremely disappointed in our leadership who seem not to care about the future of space flight, just letting 50 years of discoveries end with no certain path for our future.

Here's an excellent article about the end of the Program along with ignorant comments.

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