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