Friday, January 27, 2006

Challenger Memoirs

As a junior high student, I had already planned to attend Space Camp in Huntsville Alabama, when the Challenger Exploded. I'd bought the plane ticket, I'd bought the package, from a less fortunate girl who had gymnastics finals. In any case, I bit my upper lip and went anyway.

I spent my first day in the video arcade playing a hostage rescue sim called Choplifter. You can probably still find it to this day. I spent about ten of my sixty dollars just in quarters that day on that game and the coke machine. I was so nervous.

But already I was seeing reassuring signs, positive imagery in the Rocket Center, and names like Rockwell, Lockheed, Coca-Cola as sponsors. I remember having my first foil wrapped hamburger and finding it fascinating. I had astronaut frieze dried ice cream for desert, upon our welcoming lunch.

We were introduced to the dorms, and the "waste management" facilities. It was very much like an academy, like an Annapolis for grade school kids.

What recoils in my mind so often is 72 seconds...72 seconds...72 seconds.

I watched those clips over and over on TV and we thought them the most relevant to history, ever, in terms of horror, at that age. I can only imagine what the next generations face in the terms of those falling towers.

I saw so many things that week, I saw the O-ring factory, I went to the Hubble telescope site where they made the mirrors. No flash photography allowed at either, but I have the memory of trying to stand very still. So as not to corrupt the lens.

Standing very still...In the wake of 72 seconds...72 seconds...72 seconds...

I held hands with a girl named stephanie, as it would have been told. We talked a lot, and I thought she was cool, but like everyone else, I would only meet her counterparts in the future as vague memories of those moments, other Stephanie's with other issues.

In any case, I've always had a fondness for the name.

I remember reading my first Dragonlance book when I returned. It was so strange, that I'd seen someone reading the same book there. As if the Time of the Twins somehow collectively drew into our Space Consciousness. The first 3 trilogies were good incedentally.

The story will have a marked influence over me my entire life...One hyper intelligent...(darkness and other horrors) the other more like a Paladin...(pure good)...And their roles cross more than once. Like opposing pawns on a chess board.

I remember the Lunar Landing game and 5 degrees of freedom, a weightlessness simulator. Both interesting tests of skill. I remember building theoretical space stations. And losing much interest in the design.

And the one fact that I remembered that was critical to 1987's story...The Robotic Arm on the shuttle, was Canadian.

Christopher J. Bradley