The Challenger and Ping Pong in Space

Reading The Martian, has rekindled my love of space. I’ve never been a genius at math or science, but I have always held a desire to be an astronaut. I know it will never happen, but there is still a little girl inside that wants to go to space. I envy the men and women who have the chance.

In middle school I had a science teacher, Mrs. Brown. She had the same desire. She owned a NASA flight suit and wore it to school for every space shuttle launch. I have vivid memories of her walking the halls in that bright blue jumpsuit. If that wasn’t enough to set my imagination on fire, she applied to be an astronaut for the teacher in space program. I don’t know how far she went, but it was enough to make me want to follow in her footsteps.  I only went as far as Space Camp.

Thirty years ago on January 28, 1986 we were reminded how dangerous space travel was. That was the day the Challenger exploded. I was in the cafeteria, for lunch, when an announcement was made about the explosion. It was the only time I can remember the lunch room going quiet. It was a shock. Some how we had convinced ourselves space travel was safe almost ordinary. We lost the first teacher in space, Christa McAuliffe, along with Gregory Jarvis, Judith A. Resnik, Francis R. Scobee, Ronald E. McNair, Mike J. Smith, and Ellison S. Onizuka. Beyond the shock of the explosion I remember the heartbreak of my teacher.

This week holds another milestone in space. Scott Kelly marked his 300th day in space. How did he celebrate? By playing ping pong with a sphere of water. The nerd in me did a happy dance. He has less than 65 days left.

A part of me still wishes to go to space, to see the Earth from a distance. The other part is glad to keep both feet on the ground.

-CK

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