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« Physician, Heal Thyself | Main | A Herd, Not A Pack »

Seventeen Years Ago Today

The Space Shuttle Challenger was destroyed on ascent by a leaky solid rocket booster (SRB). All seven crewmembers were killed.

Here is my post from last year, and last week, on the subject.

Others' memories of that event can be found here and here.

High Flight

by John Gillespie Magee, Jr.

Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth,
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds...and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of...wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there,
I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air.
Up, up, the long, delirious burning blue
I've topped the windswept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, nor even eagle flew.
And while with silent, lifting mind I've trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space...
...put out my hand, and touched the face of God

[Update at 11:15 AM PST]

I just heard CNN announced that the Challenger "exploded." This is a common misperception. Not only did the Challenger (the orbiter itself) not explode, but no portion of the stack did, either. The orbiter broke up from aerodynamic stresses as its attitude moved away from nose forward. The "explosion" that everyone saw was simply a hydrogen fireball as the external tank collapsed from the stress of the SRB bending into it, and the propellants mixed.

While a fireball can look like an explosion, it isn't, in the technical sense of the word. If you light a patch of gasoline on pavement, it will combust, but it's not an explosion, which is a rapid release of energy from a high-pressure environment. What happened to the ET is more like the gasoline on pavement. It only looked so spectacular because of the large amounts of combustibles present.

Posted by Rand Simberg at January 28, 2003 07:43 AM
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Sigh... Mourning two days in a row. I cried for days over the Apollo deaths. I mourned for years over the Challenger -- until the next shuttle launched. And I love that poem.

Sigh. Happy birthday anyway. :)

Posted by Kathy K at January 28, 2003 05:10 PM


Posted by Rand Simberg at June 2, 2004 08:34 AM

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