“Take me out to the black. Tell ’em I ain’t comin’ back…” — The Ballad of Serenity
If you’re a space enthusiast like us, the days between January 27 and February 1 are a difficult stretch. That’s because each year we’re forced to observe a hat trick of anniversaries we wish we didn’t have to see on the calendar– a somber series of dates that remind us that it is indeed a rough road that leads to the stars.
This past Wednesday, January 27, was the anniversary of the flash fire on the launch pad during a test in 1967 that claimed the lives of Apollo 1 astronauts Virgil “Gus” Grissom, Edward H. White II and Roger Chaffee. And last Thursday, January 28, marked the 30th anniversary of the day on which Space Shuttle Challenger exploded during launch, killing astronauts Michael J. Smith, Dick Scobee, Ronald McNair, Ellison Onizuka, Gregory Jarvis and Judith Resnik, as well as Christa McAuliffe, a New England school teacher who was to have become the first educator in space as part of NASA’s Teacher in Space Project. This Monday, February 1, will be thirteen years since Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrated upon reentering Earth’s atmosphere and astronauts Rick Husband, William McCool, Michael Anderson, Kalpana Chawla, David Brown, Laurel Clark and Ilan Ramon perished.
Here at Take Back the Sky, we’ve written at length about these tragedies and the heroes we lost as a result of them. (If you’d like to read more, check out our archived blogposts from October 2012 and January 2015.) This year however, we’d like to honor the memory of all of these brave men and women by taking a look at the groundbreaking work that one of them was to have done out in the black.