On January 28th, 1986 President Ronald Reagan was preparing for the State of the Union Address when the Challenger exploded shortly after take off. The blast off of the was broadcast live and the whole world watched in horror as the Challenger and it’s crew perished. Instead of giving the State of the Union President Reagan spoke on what he called a “national loss”. He called us “pioneers in space” and wanted to ensure the people of the United States that the space program would continue amidst the loss of the Challenger seven.
President Reagan said, “And I want to say something to the school children of America who were watching the live coverage of the shuttle’s take off. I know it’s hard to understand, but sometimes painful things like this happen. It’s all part of the process of exploration and discovery. It’s all part of taking a chance and expanding man’s horizons. The future doesn’t belong to the fainthearted; it belongs to the brave. The Challenger crew was pulling us into the future, and we’ll continue to follow them.”
President Reagan knew that among the school children watching there would be some who aspired to be astronauts and many with other dreams. He wanted them to know that risks must be taken, that there would be loss and there may be heartache, but that if we wanted to broaden our horizons, explore and discover new things, have a future of learning and innovations that despite the fear of the unknown we must trek on. The space program continued on. We sent many more astronauts into space and unmanned crafts to mars, we are a species who cannot be happy with the knowledge we have, we hunger for more and until we cease to exist we will continue to explore earth and space.
Left to right: Teacher-in-Space payload specialist Sharon Christa McAuliffe; payload specialist Gregory Jarvis; and astronauts Judith A. Resnik, mission specialist; Francis R. (Dick) Scobee, mission commander; Ronald E. McNair, mission specialist; Mike J. Smith, pilot; and Ellison S. Onizuka, mission specialist.
Image Credit: NASA