Thirty years ago this week, the Space Challenger exploded a mere 73 seconds after lift-off. It had launched and landed nine times prior to its tenth and fatal mission. Among the crew, was the first Teacher-in-Space payload specialist Sharon Christa McAuliffe.
The mission’s launch was delayed for six days due to weather and technical problems. January 28th was an unusually cold day in Florida, and engineers warned that several key components of the space shuttle were vulnerable to the cold temperature. Despite those warnings, the Space Challenger lifted off at 11:39 a.m. It was a tragedy not to be forgotten.
This week on NPR, one of the original engineers for the Challenger was interviewed. According to NPR, he “suffered deep depression and has never been able to lift the burden of guilt. In 1986, as he watched that haunting image again on a television screen, he said, ‘I could have done more. I should have done more.”
What terrible guilt this man has lived with for thirty years! He is likely not alone in carrying this burden. I can imagine the nightmares, anxiety attacks, and sadness so many experienced through the trauma of witnessing this event, knowing that in some small way, they were at least partially responsible.
Jesus has taught that all is forgiven. Even those who took Jesus to the cross and were responsible for his death received forgiveness. We, who have done terrible things in our lives, we who have caused harm and even death to others, we who have not stopped tragedies from happening, can still seek and find forgiveness.
My prayer today is all those connected to the Space Challenger tragedy may experience forgiveness. My prayer today is all of us who seek forgiveness may open our hearts to receive it. The good news is, if we ask, it is given. Thanks be to God!