30 Years Ago Today, America Started To Become a Different Place in the Cosmos

I watched the Challenger explosion on TV. I remember I was working on a long piece about Hank Williams.

Everything about the idea behind Christa McAuliffe was honorable and she was a true champion. But the big, glaring error was the atmosphere (which has only increased ever since) that something has to be absolutely safe and secure every time or it’s not worth doing. There should have been a lot more emphasis that space travel was still damned dangerous, but that people should grapple with that.

But, as longtime Milo Miles readers might note, I go back and forth on that notion. At times I feel space is more profitably — even inspirationally — explored by ever-more-sophisticated robots. And yet people’s hearts belong to explorations with actual people involved. Moreover, I find curiosity about what’s on the other side of the next hill one of the few redeeming, pervasive human qualities. (Though we might have to start using machines to find out after we exhaust the hills of Earth.)

I guess my wrap is that I’m sorry American aspirations became more timid and trimmed after Challenger. I was at a high school debate conference when Apollo 1 burned on the launch pad. Horrible catastrophe, but we sucked it up and went forward. I hate to think that was only because we were still determined to beat the Rooskies.

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