Twenty-four years ago this week, the seven member crew of STS-51L were killed when the Space Shuttle Challenger disintegrated 73 seconds after launch from LC-39B at Cape Canaveral, Florida. It was the first fatal in-flight accident in American spaceflight history.
In remarks made at a memorial service held for the Challenger Seven in Houston, Texas on Friday, 31 January 1986, President Ronald Wilson Reagan expressed the following sentiments:
“The future is not free: the story of all human progress is one of a struggle against all odds. We learned again that this America, which Abraham Lincoln called the last, best hope of man on Earth, was built on heroism and noble sacrifice. It was built by men and women like our seven star voyagers, who answered a call beyond duty, who gave more than was expected or required and who gave it little thought of worldly reward.”
We take this opportunity now to remember the heroic fallen:
Francis R. (Dick) Scobee, Commander
Michael John Smith, Pilot
Ellison S. Onizuka, Mission Specialist One
Judith Arlene Resnik, Mission Specialist Two
Ronald Erwin McNair, Mission Specialist Three
S.Christa McAuliffe, Payload Specialist One
Gregory Bruce Jarvis, Payload Specialist Two
Speaking for his grieving countrymen, President Reagan closed his eulogy with these words:
“Dick, Mike, Judy, El, Ron, Greg and Christa – your families and your country mourn your passing. We bid you goodbye. We will never forget you. For those who knew you well and loved you, the pain will be deep and enduring. A nation, too, will long feel the loss of her seven sons and daughters, her seven good friends. We can find consolation only in faith, for we know in our hearts that you who flew so high and so proud now make your home beyond the stars, safe in God’s promise of eternal life.”
Tuesday, 28 January 1986. We Remember.