Today is the 25th anniversary of the Space Shuttle Challenger explosion, just 79 seconds after liftoff.
I remember watching the launch on TV. They were so routine back then than only one station was even broadcasting it live. I had just poured myself a large cup of iced tea and sat down on the couch when I saw the explosion, the booster rockets going off in separate directions. It took a second for it to dawn on me what I was seeing. I dropped the tea on the carpet.
Two of the seven astronauts are interred in Arlington National Cemetery. I have not located Michael Smith's grave but I've seen Dick Scobee's several times.
There's also a monument to the whole Challenger crew there, right next to another one for the heroes that died in the Shuttle Columbia.
Three members of Columbia's crew are at Arlington, too. They are Michael Anderson, Laurel Clark, and David Brown.
Also interred there are astronauts Virgil Grissom and Roger Chaffee, two of the three astronauts killed on January 27, 1967, 44 years ago yesterday, when an oxygen-fed fire swept through their Apollo space capsule as they were training for the first Apollo/Saturn mission.
At this time, 29 former astronauts are buried with honors at Arlington National Cemetery, all great Americans. But the graves and memorials to the heroes above, all of whom died in the pursuit of space, stand as testament to the very real risks and human cost of space flight, and the exemplary type of person that it takes to accept those risks for America and every other citizen of the planet Earth.