Weekly Photo Challenge: Launch

Space Shuttle Challenger Memorial

It’s hard to believe that it’s been more than 25 years since the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded 73 seconds after launch. I was watching TV that morning before I went to my job as the Undergraduate English Secretary at the University of Michigan.

Much of the country was watching TV on January 28, 1986. Among the crew members was Christa McAuliffe, who’d won the honor to be the first Teacher in Space. She represented the opportunity for normal people to go into space. Her death marked the end of that dream for most people.

On June 12, 1986, Congress resolved that “the Secretary of the Army should construct and place in Arlington National Cemetery a memorial marker honoring the seven members of the crew of the Space Shuttle Challenger.” Artist Robert Harding designed the bronze plaque on the front of the monument. John Gillespie Magee Jr.’s poem “High Flight” is inscribed on the memorial’s back.

Some of the Challenger crewmembers’ remains could be identified and were buried in private graves. Everything that could not be identified using 1980s technology was cremated and is buried in the base of this monument.

Vice President George Bush dedicated the monument on March 21, 1987. Family members of the seven Challenger astronauts, along with a small crowd of 400 other people, attended.

Faces and names engraved on the monument are:

Commander Michael J. Smith, Pilot (buried in Arlington in Section 7-A)
Commander Francis R. “Dick” Scobee (buried in Section 46 to the left of the Challenger Monument)
Ronald E. McNair, Mission Specialist
Ellison Onizuka, Mission Specialist
S. Christa McAuliffe, Payload Specialist (and teacher)
Gregory B. Jarvis, Payload Specialist
Judith A. Resnik, Mission Specialist

“Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings…”

Cemetery of the Week #1: Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia

About Loren Rhoads

I am the author of the essay collection Wish You Were Here: Adventures in Cemetery Travel, co-author of the novel As Above, So Below, and editor of The Haunted Mansion Project: Year Two. Scribner published my favorite essays from Morbid Curiosity magazine as Morbid Curiosity Cures the Blues. In addition to blogging at CemeteryTravel.com, I blog about my morbid life at lorenrhoads.com.
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11 Responses to Weekly Photo Challenge: Launch

  1. What a beautiful and touching monument. You are so right that the day is engraved in our memories. My children were in grade school and they bring this up from time to time as an event that was probably the most shocking and disturbing event in their young lives…watching it occur live on classrooms around the world! Lovely and touching post, Loren. So fitting that the memorial would be at Arlington! I didn’t know that…Debra

  2. pix & kardz says:

    what a shocking moment that was. an unforgettable launch that ended in tragedy. hard to believe it has already been so long ago. thank you for sharing this poignant post.

  3. jakesprinter says:

    So sad to remember that moment of tragedy i was watching it too that time on TV Nice to remember them .

  4. IsobelandCat says:

    I was teaching in quite a rough school at the time. One of the kids I taught who had a degree of learning difficulties was called McAuliffe. He was taking a very personal interest in this shuttle because of the shared name. Thus hers is the only one I remember.

  5. I’ll never forget that moment, much like the plane hitting the twin towers. It’s hard to believe it was 25 years ago! Excellent post.

  6. Pingback: Cemetery of the Week #1: Arlington National Cemetery | Cemetery Travel: Adventures in Graveyards Around the World

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