Challenger—25 Years Later

Today’s news has been dominated by the unrest in Egypt, but let us not forget that January 28 marks a very important anniversary for our country, our space program, and our future.  Twenty-five years ago, Commander Dick Scobee, Pilot Michael J. Smith, Mission Specialists Ron McNair, Ellison Onizuka, and Judy Resnik, Payload Specialist Gregory Jarvis, and the first civilian Teacher in Space Christa McAuliff boarded the space shuttle Challenger and launched on its final mission.

The Challenger accident was a seminal moment in our history, one of those profound experiences that changed all our lives.  Anyone old enough to be aware remembers where he or she was at the moment that terrible news came over the radio or television.

Yesterday, Jan 27, was the 44th anniversary of the disastrous fire aboard Apollo 1, which took the lives of astronauts Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee.

Three days from now, Feb 1, is the 7th anniversary of the loss of Space Shuttle Columbia and crew Commander Dick Husband, Pilot William McCool, Payload Commander Michael Anderson, Payload Specialist Ilan Ramon, and Mission Specialists Kalpana Chawla, David Brown, and Laurel Clark.

When I was a kid, seven years old, I remember watching Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walk on the Moon.  Having been a science fiction fan even at that age, I had no doubts that our space program would continue to grow, and that by the time I was in college there would be hotels aboard space stations, colonies on the Moon, manned expeditions to Mars.  Didn’t happen.

This is a time to remember all those who have dedicated, and sometimes sacrificed, their lives to help the human race move forward, to develop materials, technology, and engineering methods that have improved our civilization.

For more than a decade, Rebecca and I have had the honor of working with June Scobee Rodgers, whose husband Dick Scobee was commander on the final flight of Challenger.  June helped create the Challenger Centers for Space Science Education to continue the mission of promoting interest in science and technology among young people.  Together, we have developed a series of novels for young readers, Star Challengers—which will encourage the next generation to see the importance of the space program.

The first two novels are currently available, Moonbase Crisis and Space Station Crisis, and a portion of the proceeds goes directly to the Challenger Centers.  You can order from, or signed copies are available from (Space Station Crisis has just arrived and will be on the site in the next week.)