I’ve finally decided to do something I’ve been thinking about for years – adding a blog to the website. Now I don’t really think of this as a ‘blog’ in the traditional sense. It’s more of my occasional musings on anything and everything related to space. It might be my excited ramblings regarding some to announcement or finding or maybe me venting about something that ticked me off in the space community. It’s just whatever strikes me at a whim enough to bring me to the keyboard. I will warn any of you that have come across these words – I’m never going to win any awards for my writing prowess! lol Anyway, this first entry was prompted by NASA’s ‘Day of Remembrance‘. Historically, NASA and the end of January time period ARE NOT well suited with the tragedies of Apollo 1, Challenger and Columbia all occurring within the same historical week’s time frame (January 27, 1967, January 28, 1987 & February 1, 2003 respectively). As usual with my brain, I went beyond just the ‘remembrance’ and that’s why this page is ‘rain’s musings’.
It’s the question that was being asked by and to many people yesterday as it has been asked by space fans each year for the last 29 years. “Where were you when Challenger exploded?” It’s now almost as ubiquitous as (for those of us old enough to remember) ‘Where were you when Kennedy was shot?” It doesn’t really matter if you can remember or not; it’s the feeling the words bring. The sadness. The knowledge of something not quite realized, that was lost. The surety that the world changed that day.
I remember exactly where I was. I was living in Boston, in the Back Bay on Marlborough Street. I didn’t know I was a ‘space geek’ yet but I was, and had been, following what NASA had been doing for many years. I stayed home sick that day; not just to watch the liftoff, I really was sick, but living in MA, so close to where Christa McAuliffe was from, no one in the area could have avoided the excitement of the day and sick or not, I was going to take advantage of being home and watch the launch.
My television at the time was a tiny 8” portable and to really see anything I had to sit with it practically in my lap. It wasn’t, that was reserved for my new kitten, Adagio, but the tv was on a shelf about a foot away and I was bundled in a blanket on my favorite chair – a wicker, fan back lounge chair. I remember being so excited! A civilian going into space and a teacher, at that! That’s what NASA had always been to me – the advancement of knowledge and who better to push that agenda but a teacher?
There was so little available information back then. I knew the day was cold but didn’t know enough to know it could affect the Shuttle. The liftoff looked so beautiful. I wanted to be there and experience it live. 73 seconds later I was so glad I wasn’t. I knew immediately that it was a major failure. I knew in my head and my heart that no one would survive it. No hopeful words from any news people even slightly budged that knowledge. I picked up my kitten and cried into her warm fur. I know I didn’t talk to anyone for hours. I sat glued to my little television listening and watching the same horrific video over and over again, the next round of tears never far away. They say that’s a sign of insanity. Repeating the same actions and expecting something to change. I’d say a significant portion of the US population went a little insane for a few hours that day. Watching President Reagan’s speech that night almost made me like the man but it didn’t take away the sorrow.
So here I am 29 years later and the sorrow is still there. The end of January begins a sad, memorable-for-all-the-wrong-reasons, time in US space history. There was the new sorrow of Columbia, in 2003, which I was also watching on that fateful Saturday morning and the realization so many years later that the Apollo 1 disaster (which I also remember vividly) occurred historically in the same time period. Now a fully recognized space geek, I have the honor of saying I am personally acquainted with Dr. June Scobee Rogers, the widow of Challenger Commander Dick Scobee and somehow that sad day seems a little closer to home. Sadly, commercial space ventures now have their own loss and no one should forget Michael Tyner, when remembering those who lost their life in the pursuit of the dream of space.
So where does that dream stand now? How far back have those sorrows put us or have they do so at all? NASA continues and commercial space groups now seem to materialize from thin air all over the world. There are still many people with the dream of space but what of the next generation? What is there inspiring our children to pursue those dreams? There are still a lot of science fiction movies and television shows and countless space geeks launched our dreams from those. Still, dreams can’t be achieve simply by dreaming! There must be a base to work from and that base is STEM education (science, technology, engineering & math). That education seems to be getting harder and harder to find for the current generation. School budgets have and are being drastically cut across the country. Education systems are being invaded and in some cases completely taken over by religious fundamentalists who don’t believe in anything but what their own belief-specific bible tells them. Major text book companies are now owned by some of those same religious fundamentalists and their books are being used to teach our students. Real facts are increasingly hard to come by.
Even those television channels that are supposedly devoted to science and history and discovery have become little more than eye candy channels more focused on making shows look good than on the actual facts behind them. Watch any space related show on the History or Science Channels when they depict an asteroid field, they’re still showing hundreds or thousands of asteroids all in view of each other! While not science, the History Channel just finished a 3 night event on the beginnings of the Revolutionary War in which I don’t think a single fact, other than the actual historical names of the people involved, was accurately portrayed! No notice was given on the fallacy of the portrayals or that what they seemed to show happening within a few months actually occurred over a period of almost 10 years! Anyone with no knowledge of the Revolutionary War would come away thinking Samuel Adams was an unmarried, drunken, ner-do-well who was responsible for every major act of rebellion and violence in Boston leading up to the war! In an age where so many of our children spend more time watching tv and movies (whether on the television or a mobile device) then they do reading, where what is being taught in schools is questionable, having shows on channels which advertise themselves as ‘science’ or ‘history’, airing factually inaccurate shows is again, no help for a foundation to move forward.
More and more it looks like it will take efforts from everyone to help move things in the right direction and give current and future generations a good stepping stone to base their dreams on. How you might ask? Any and every way you can think of! Be active in your school systems – it’s YOUR tax dollars. Check out what books are being used. See where money is being spent and fight to make sure more goes to the students than to those running things. Encourage more STEM related activities in your communities. Talk about them to your neighbors. Plan STEM outings with not only your own kids but invite their friends. Find your local astronomy group and arrange an outing for your kids. Plan a family vacation that includes a stop a NASA facility. Keep up with what your state government officials are doing. Are they voting for or against education funding and is it going towards the students? Are they for or against the NASA budget? Let them know how you feel about how they vote. Things will not change unless those running things know there are consequences for not going along with what their populace wants. Make a ‘knowledgeable’ future for the next generation.
As the years go by and people continue to ask “Where were you when Challenger exploded?”, hopefully those conversations will easily morph into how the dream of space has GROWN since that time. How we have learned from the mistakes of the past. How we now have a thriving space program both on a national level and a private sector level. How we now look at our children and see them not only dreaming of space again but fulfilling those dreams as the human race expands its knowledge and presence beyond our own planet.
I ask all of you – DREAM WITH ME!