Saturday, January 28, 2006 | By: Dusty Taylor

20 years ago

In roughly 20 minutes it will be the exact time. I woke up with a jolt about half a hour ago. I looked at the clock..yes, I said to myself, yes it is almost time. The hair on the back of my neck is still standing up. Its a date and a time I will never forget. I can still see the offices..our little cubicles..everyone standing up looking over the tops of them at each other...asking wtf went so wrong...

I was working in Germantown MD..for Fairchild Space Systems. I was the program manager for several Shuttle-based satellites. My life and the lives of everyone in aerospace changed forever. The Challenger blew into smithereens shortly after takeoff this day in 1986. We had gotten so blase' about shuttle launches, we didn't even watch them in the office anymore. But this one was so horribly different, exploding 73 seconds after launch.

I did not know any of the astronauts. Yes, we had a payload on the shuttle but that really didnt matter. What mattered was that human life ended because of complacency in the workplace. Our jobs would end shortly before Thanksgiving that same year, the government put an end to all launches for what seemed an eternity. Half the company would be laid off, the same thing happening to hundreds of other companies within the circle of aerospace manufacturing.

I moved back to California in March of '87, unable to find a job in my profession on the east coast. I didnt try to get back into aerospace here in Cali. I started a business which was really a good move for me, my son was at an age when being home when he got out from school was a good thing, and I was a single parent.

I never achieved that same level of monetary comfort in my life again...but I also didn't have to take tranquilizers and stress 24/7 about my job either. My son no longer had to have a live-in nanny because mommy worked alot and slept in the office 3 nights out of 7, I no longer got called into the plant at 1 AM because a unit that was due to ship in a week went down in test. I never had to deal with government beaurocracy again and folks thats a good thing if you have never had to deal with alcoholic QA guys. Hell, I think back and realize I most likely was an alcoholic back then, drinking to relieve the daily stress of a job that seemed insurmountable all the time, building things that no one knew would even work properly out there in outer space since they had never been built before. One of the major reasons I got divorced was that damn job and its hours, its demands on my life..The price you pay sometimes is not worth it to some people.

The price we all paid that day wasn't worth it. ok...I can stop now..its 11:40 am on the east coast..20 years ago to the day, hour and minute..my life changed forever.

5 people gave us their .02 cents:

Bruce said...

I remember I was one of the first people at work to find out about it. I was on a supply run that day, and had the radio on in the truck. When I went inside and told everyone, they thought I was playing a very cruel joke; then the word started to spread around the hospital. The usual comments were heard..."was it a bomb?", "was it the Russians?"(one of the dumber ones I heard that day), etc. I think the public, as a whole, had become very complacent about the space program before the tragedy, and this woke them up. It is sad, though, that the only name that most people can remember(and I put myself in that category, unfortunately) is Christa McAuliffe.

lecram sinun said...

I had slept on the couch that night with the TV on and thought I had drempt the whole thing until I woke up. It was surreal... in a strange Daliesque sort of way.

IT-Chick said...

I had a concussion back then, i remember it in technicolor.

sorry tagged you...

"Ok, I will list some folks that I would be INTERESTED in seeing their answers.
IF they choose not to participate, I am quite OK with it. BUT NOT 7!

1. DUSTY – she tagged me once, AND I love to hear what she has to say about things. She has a perspective that I don’t look at without prodding. Dustalicious has met folks, seen things and lived 17 lives if you read her blog all in heels that make her taller than she really is!

2. JQP- He has been to war and has a dead mans knee. On top of that… he is traveling and might appreciate the … oh hell, who am I kidding, I am interested in the answers he can fart up."

Col. Dr. said...

Prometheus finally touched the sun. Forget that Reaganite plagiarism about the surly bonds of Earth.

The real impact of the Challenger disaster was the crack it left in the invulnerability myth American ventures build up around themselves.

I felt sorry for Christa McAuliffe's students. Imagine sitting, watching your teacher make history, but in a much more sinister, notorious way than intended. Imagine being the people who had to explain to them.

dusty said...

True Doc..

Curse you IT :P

B..It is sad her's is the only name people remember..I know them all.

Marcel..it was a surreal event.