Challenger Crew


“They had a hunger to explore the universe and discover its truths. They wished to serve, and they did. They served all of us.”

I’ll never forget gym class coming to a halt when a kid ran in and shouted: “The Space Shuttle exploded!” I was a 6th grader then; I’m a 6th grade teacher now. This year marks the 30th anniversary of the loss of the Challenger.

We read the transcript of Ronald Reagan’s speech to the nation on the evening of the tragedy, as well as the poem it quotes, High Flight.

We also watched this lovely short film about one of the astronauts, Ronald McNair.


I teach the Challenger disaster each year in a two-part lesson about how small causes can have large effects. “The first story’s a bummer,” I warn the students, and we learn the unhappy consequences of low temperatures on faulty O-rings.


The second story, however, is cheerful. We read “The Doughnuts,” by Robert McCloskey, a tale of the multiple benefits resulting from a mechanical malfunction. Granted, it’s an odd juxtaposition, but I like to think the seven astronauts, teacher included, would appreciate the happy ending.