An Unconventional Review: The Burning Blue
I remember the Challenger Disaster on January 28, 1986. I had heard the news in Algebra II class and was saddened by the loss of the entire crew. Other students mourned the loss of teacher Christa McAuliffe specifically, I did not. A teacher in space was a gimmick to rally Americans around the space program. Even though I was saddened by McAuliffe's Death within the terms of the team, what upset me the most about the Challenger Disaster was the possibility that the astronauts survived the initial explosion and drowned.
NASA assured us Americans that the astronauts died in the explosion.
The cabin likely remained pressurized, as the later investigation showed no signs of a sudden depressurization that could have rendered the occupants unconscious. The astronauts were equipped with emergency air packs, but due to design considerations, the tanks were located behind their seats and had to be switched on by the crew members sitting behind them.
Examination of the wreckage later showed that three of the astronauts’ emergency air supplies had been switched on, indicating the crew had survived the initial seconds of the disaster. It's likely that the ship's pilots tried to take control of the ship.
"What would they do then? Scobee and Smith would try to fly home," former NASA scientist Kerry Joels says in the book. Smith apparently tried to restore power to the shuttle, toggling switches on his control panel. The cause, however, was hopeless.
The crew cabin continued to rise for 20 seconds before slowing, then finally dropping again some 12 miles above the Atlantic Ocean. The object ultimately reached a terminal velocity of more than 200 miles per hour before crashing into the sea. The final descent took more than two minutes.
Within months of the disaster, independent scientists were already speculating that the astronauts survived the initial blast. Not unlike analyzing a NASCAR accident, the astronaut's compartment had certain reinforcements not used in other parts of the shuttle.
Cook chose to focus on the life of McAuliffe, which was his prerogative, and his book is getting good reviews, but I can't get past NASA personnel commenting, on the record, on the wreckage in the ocean aspect of the accident.
It reminded me of Jello Biafra singing about our government, in 1981:
In ten years or so we'll leak the truth
By then, it's under so much paper