In the year 1983 I was 14 years old. So, at that time I was a junior high school student. I remember that I was very excited because at my school we could watch TV in our classroom. On April 4th, the Space Shuttle Challenger was going to have its first mission to space. The world was watching. It was very, very exciting. It had been a long time since a space ship was going up into space. In fact, the last biggest news about space was in 1969, the year I was born.
Now it was 1983 and my friends and I were all watching the monochrome television in our classroom. We did not have a color television in our school yet, but it was okay. We were so happy to see the space shuttle go up into space. It was a new time for us, and we believed that space travel and space discovery were coming to us soon.
But it didn’t.
Space science is slow. And space science needs a lot of time. Probably because space is so big. In fact, our earth is quite small, and the more we send space shuttles and satellites into space we see more and more that our universe is very, very, very big. And also that our earth is so small.
But the space shuttle Challenger continued to go up into space, up to about three times a year. It was amazing. The space shuttle Challenger made 10 missions and made a lot of important debut “firsts”. There was the first woman astronaut. The first black astronaut. The first Canadian astronaut. The first Dutch astronaut. It was an incredible and very hopeful time for the world.
Sadly, the dream died on the tenth flight of the space shuttle Challenger. I remember the day very clearly. It was on January 28th, in 1986. I was 17 years old and in high school. I watched the space shuttle go up into the air on television and then it exploded. All seven astronauts on the shuttle were killed. It was very confusing and very strange. It was an unbelievable event, and it changed how the world thought about space travel and space exploration.
Very sadly, after the terrible accident of the Challenger space shuttle the world stopped thinking about traveling up into space. We became a little more afraid to discover and to explore for a long time. That happened 34 years ago and it took a long time until the world felt safe to try again. But again terrible things happened to the space shuttle program in 2003 when another shuttle, the space shuttle Columbia also had a terrible accident and seven more astronauts were killed.
Seventeen years later we are in 2020. Space is still all around our planet. There is so much we need to learn in science and in looking to the stars. Will we have strong hearts enough to try again. Will we try to travel up into space to see the stars again? Will we have the spirit of adventure and curiosity to learn more about space?
I hope so. Our earth is beautiful and important. But it is one small part of a giant expanding and unknown universe. What is up in the stars? Are there more worlds like our world? Is there life on other worlds? What kind of life is in the universe? Is it like ours or is it very different?
These are the questions we have about our universe. We need to be interested in life outside of our own planet. Maybe if we can go above our world, like astronauts did before, we can understand that our world is one world, that humans are all the same in all countries, and that we can feel hope for peace and communication here on our small world. Space is always in our future. Thank you to the Challenger space shuttle astronauts. We remember you today.