Shuttle Challenger, January 28, 1986

Space Shuttle Pass

For those that don’t recognize this, this was an Air Force vehicle pass. It took you to a great viewing area just south of the launch pads. To me, they were better than the NASA vehicle passes and we were definitely closer, only the VIP viewing area was closer. This was the last time the Air Force would issue vehicle passes, the day was January 28, 1986 and it was for the launch of the shuttle Challenger. It was the 25th shuttle launch and the first from LC-38B.  It would also be the first loss of a shuttle.

I would get these passes from my father who worked for Martin Marietta.  When I got these passes I would walk along US-1 and try to find people who came the greatest distance and convince them I wasn’t a serial killer and take them along with me to view a launch up close. I’ve taken people from Alaska, Canada, and Germany and many states in-between. That morning though, I didn’t want to find anyone. Maybe it was the cold or maybe it was something else but for some reason I didn’t want to take anyone with me and that was a first. I’m glad I didn’t.

You could tell those who had never seen a launch before. When the shuttle first exploded I heard…..there is always a bright light when the boosters come off. My reply was “It’s too soon and it doesn’t look like that, it blew up.” Speakers still rattled off the flight information and then came the announcement of a serious malfunction.

I remember this day well. I was there when it happened. The Air Force stopped their vehicle passes after that day for fear of the danger of falling debris if it ever happened again, but it didn’t stop me from continuing my missions. I soon started to receive NASA passes from an ex-brother-in-law and was there again 32 months later for the Return to Space launch of Discovery. People wore green ribbons–green for go and I was even interviewed by a local TV station. I continued to take people out for launches until my source stopped working for NASA.

space shuttle crew

The crew of Space Shuttle mission STS-51-L pose for their official portrait on Nov.15, 1985. In the back row from left to right: Ellison S. Onizuka, Sharon Christa McAuliffe, Greg Jarvis, and Judy Resnik. In the front row from left to right: Michael J. Smith, Dick Scobee, and Ron McNair. (Contributed photo/NASA)


Some may view the space program as a waste of money.  I beg to differ. All one has to do is look about their home and innovations initially developed by NASA are all around. These range from scratch-resistant lens coating on glasses, mattresses, pillows, chair lifts and ergonomic chairs to water filters and improved air conditioners.

The smoke detectors that save thousands of lives a year were developed for use on Skylab; cordless power tools; appliances and telephones that now have become everyday household items were first made for the Apollo missions. Radial tires and the Global Positioning System (GPS) to find a destination or favorite fishing hole are also the result of NASA research. For play, there are golf clubs and balls, sporting goods lubricants, and automotive insulation used by NASCAR.

Firefighting gear developed for the launch pads now protect race-car drivers and firefighters worldwide. In the area of health care, innovations include an infrared thermometer, body imaging and mammogram breast biopsy. The sensors that told NASA that John Glenn’s heartbeat was A-OK during the Mercury mission are now used in intensive care units around the world. A pump designed for the Mars Viking Lander has evolved into insulin pumps used by some diabetics. Live coverage on TV showing news as it happens, weather both current and forecasted, and sports events isn’t from just the local cable company but from many space satellites. The first laptop computer also was developed for the space industry.

NASA is one of the few government agencies that has a return on money spent. For every $1 spent on NASA, $10 is returned to the economy because of their innovations. We need to remember those who gave their life in pursuit of science. Few people realize just how much NASA has had an impact on their lives and some may owe their very life to their innovations.

Posted on 01/28/2015, in Potpourri, Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 17 Comments.

  1. I had no idea so much of what we take for granted in our everyday lives, came from NASA and the development of vehicles we use for space exploration

    On the day the Shuttle blew up, I was at work, here in North Florida but we could see the explosion. The skies were clear and it seemed very cold. We stepped outside to watch the launch and didn’t realize for a few seconds that things weren’t ‘right’. It was one of the saddest days I remember.

    Thank you for this towerflower!


  2. What I have mentioned is only a drop in a bucket of the ten of thousands of innovations started by the Space Program. They also have an impact on 3rd world countries by helping them find their natural resources and water supplies. Even today, advances in medicine are first being developed on the ISS. They can do much more in a weightless environment then they can accomplish in a gravity environment.


  3. Great & very informative post. I forgot all about this being 29 years…..where does the time go. I can say that everything I wear when I race is space technology related. Shoes, socks, pants, jacket, neck collar covering and parts of my helmet. Even parts in the car, down to the engine paint and header coating are all from this technology. Even some of the light weight hi tech parts in the transmission !!!!!!

    I believe even some of the electronic technology is from the space race.

    ………………scary thought………….my cell phone, which isn’t even a smart phone, and just takes pictures, does texts and phone calls, has something like 10,000 X the computing power and speed of the computers that landed man on the moon. It took half an hour or more to boot them up and just as long or longer to shut down.

    On the other hand, the day we landed on the moon, and my dad took pictures of the TV screen of that historic event, seems like yesterday on one hand and 1,000 years on the other. Then again, when I was in high school, if I said along the lines of……..wait, let me take my phone out of my pocket and…………I’d still be wearing a straight jacket !!!!!!

    Back in around 73 when I 1st started working on cars for a living, I’d never imagine that computers would be managing the engine, the brake system (ABS) all of the creature comforts and the like. God………..I miss the old days.


  4. yahtzeebutterfly

    Super article, Towerflower!

    I was fascinated reading about your first-hand viewing experiences. Amazing opportunities for you!

    Yes, so many inventions from NASA program that came from space technology!


  5. Reblogged this on It Is What It Is and commented:
    The impact of NASA can’t be ignored!


  6. Thank you for the rebog.


  7. OT: Roorda at it again

    deray mckesson @deray
    26m 26 minutes ago

    Police union spokesman pushes young black woman at public hearing on local control


    • Peni,
      I read that Roorda was wearing a “I Am Darren Wilson” bracelet. That is so disrespectful.


      • Yep, big as day.

        Slow motion vid of Roorda grabbing lady.


      • Xena, I agree. Here you have a community in trouble, trouble that started by the actions of the PD and boiled over with the actions of DW. Frankly I don’t care who buys a bracelet to show their support of the officer but when you have a public position you should never wear those bracelets out in public. When some officers started to wear those things during the protests the PD should’ve taken a stand and said NO and threaten discipline or termination of those that continued to wear them in public. It’s called eroding public confidence and when a group of public servants wear them it continues to erode the public’s confidence in their ability to do their job.

        Roorda may not be a public servant—works for the police union–but he works for those public servants and if they had any sense about them they would reign him in or better yet, fire him. They can’t begin to mend the divide between the police and the community when you have someone like Roorda constantly stirring up the pot.

        Some may claim he has a 1A right to do and wear what he wants. I say that doesn’t always apply. The Federal Government is one in which an employee can be fired for eroding public confidence.


    • ugh..


  8. Towerflower,
    Please tell me, pleasepleaseplease, that NASA is not responsible for the creation of Google. 🙂


  9. Xena…..NASA is not responsible for the creation of Google. Google was already out there when they formed a research partnership with NASA in 2005.


    • Towerflower,
      Darn! Well, NASA is responsible for so many good things that I didn’t want to spoil their reputation anyway. 🙂


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