The full moon. It fascinates all of us. So hard to believe that mankind last walked on the moon nearly 40 years ago, and may not return in my lifetime.
So hard to believe we are no longer running a manned space program, when it was such a part of my childhood growing up in the 1950's and 1960's.
(Full Wolf Moon, taken yesterday in Putnam County, New York, courtesy of RamblinwithAM).
On January 28, 1986 the shuttle Challenger exploded approximately 73 seconds after its liftoff from Cape Kennedy, Florida. All seven astronauts aboard perished, including a high school teacher, Christa McAuliffe, the first civilian scheduled to go into space.
The space shuttles were grounded for two years. Of course now, the program is over. Dead.
I sometimes wonder if the Challenger explosion, 27 years ago today, somehow was the beginning of the end of the United States manned space effort. It was a pivotal moment for an entire generation, who remembered where they were and what they were doing the same way my generation remembered the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963.
But, in 1969, we did something more dangerous than sending up a space shuttle. We sent three astronauts to the moon for the first time, using technology more primitive than that of 1986. Especially of some concern was the moon lander, which also needed to launch the two moon landing astronauts back to the mother ship. Obviously, it had never received a full manned field test on the moon.
What would have happened, if the mission had failed and the astronauts had been stranded on the moon? Have you ever wondered?
It turns out that our government was prepared, with instructions on how to proceed, and a speech was even written for the President - written by someone who went to my high school, the late William Safire.
It's a sobering speech, and one that was not needed.
But when I look at the moon - I still wonder - had the Challenger not exploded, would man have returned by now?