Friday, January 27, 2006

We Tried To Stop The Launch of the Challenger Shuttle


By Elaine Meinel Supkis

On the anniversary of the failure of the Challenger mission when it blew up, one cold winter morning, I remember it well, for I was involved in trying to stop the launch that day.

Here is a review of what happened.

Everyone was so excited about the "teacher in space" program. It was a brilliant publicity move for NASA and it was used to curry favor with the public. Many public schools were planning to tune in to live broadcasts from space with the lovely teacher, Sharon McAuliffe, who won the contest to go into space. Since the moon landing, attention to space matters was flagging and NASA was eager to revive it for they needed public support to get funding out of Congress.

The various space exploration/colonization communities were totally ruined by Reagan's Star Wars mess. The desire to rule the earth via space was very powerful. Fear of Russia who was bogged down in a futile war in Afghanistan and bleeding red ink trying to keep its empire intact via military force (sounds awfully familiar!) was falsely viewed as scary and dangerous so much of the public funds flowed ever faster into the maw of the military space program, a situation that didn't even pause when the Soviet state collapsed into bankruptcy and they came, hat in hand, to us for financial help (this will sound horribly familiar as we go off, today, to beg for money from China!).

Ronald Reagan decided he wanted to do a nifty publicity stunt and speak to the teacher in space during his State of the Union speech. So there was tremendous urgency to launch Challenger on this latest schedule for they were running out of time.

As usual, I was watching the weather like a hawk, a lifetime passion of mine. Due to being hit by lightning, I have a very good reason to keep a wary eye on the sky. The night before launch, a terrific cold wave with a lot of unusual turbulence came roaring down from the Arctic. Temperatures in NYC plummeted. The wind was screaming. News reports about possible crop damage in Florida caused orange futures in Chicago to shoot up as weather watchers made purchases, expecting and then getting great price hikes in the following months.

I studied the graphs showing the isobars at about 6am that morning. I knew my father was going to be at the Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena at 6am, PST. So I waited until 9am EST to call him. When he answered his office phone, I yelled, "Stop the launch! Please! The upper level crosswinds in Florida are really bad! I have a very bad feeling about this!" We talked back and forth for an hour as he looked at the isobar charts and made calls to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. They then had a meeting at the JPL headquarters and then voted to delay the launch yet again.

The launch had been repeatedly delayed due to weather and small odds and ends. So when the JPL people urged caution on the Houston people, this caused some political concerns. Houston then decided to stay the launch based on my father's say-so.

My father was the one who brought back all those German rockets in 1945, he is one of the fathers of the Space Programs and his fellow founding fathers all agreed to stay the launch until the turbulence passed which would be merely one more day.

The White House exploded in anger.

By 10:am EST, I put down the phone after my father confirmed the flight was cancelled and went off to the dentist's office to get a molar repaired. I came in and saw the TV on in the office, the dentist and receptionist were watching the launch. "It has been cancelled," I said. They said, the announcer admitted there was a call to cancel and they were waiting to see if it was going to be implimented. I said, "It won't be launched. I was promised that."

So, the dentist started working on my molar.

The receptionist screamed. The dentist said, "What is the matter?" and ran out of the room. I bolted upright. "The space shuttle blew up!" she yelled.

I tore into the room. "I hope the astronauts were already out when it happened!" I said.

"No, they launched it," whispered the dentist.

I literally grabbed the TV. "NO! How dare they! NO!" I grabbed the phone and called the JPL. My father was crying and I was yelling at him. "You said it wasn't going to be launched! Look! It blew apart right where the crosswinds are! How could you?"

He said, Reagan begged them to do it and if they didn't do it, they would have serious funding problems so the concerns of the scientists were overridden. In disgust, I told the dentist to please give me a new appointment, I had things to do. I called a number of papers and talked about this, everyone was interested until...the White House ordered NASA to lie about the pressure applied by them.

So it wasn't included in the "investigation". I wasn't asked to testify. No scientist dared say a thing about this. Hush-hush-hush, just like the fake 9/11 investigation and the fake Warren Report.

Readers might think, I am making all of this up. Fine. Be sceptical, it is a good thing, to be a sceptic. I am sorry the people who are involved in this story won't talk. They know which side their bread is buttered on and I am the black sheep, the black hole of the American Space Program's darkest secrets.

As an outsider, a reject, I can view things more clearly.
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