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China: Face-to-face meetings are best when swapping space station crews

Jon 37

Guess you are too young to remember Challenger?

Space Shuttle Challenger was launched by NASA on a very cold day. The engineers warned that the seals on the boosters would probably fail at that temperature. They launched anyway. The boosters failed and the spacecraft exploded, completely destroying it.

All aboard died.

Although after the initial explosion, the cabin was fairly intact, and if you look closely it can be seen on the video as a single large piece of debris. At least some of the crew survived the initial explosion and probably died about a minute or so later when the remains of the cabin hit the sea. We know this because they recovered the wreckage and observed that the crew had started the emergency procedures for depressurisation. There was no escape procedure for the crew - no escape capsule, no parachutes, nothing they could do.

The crew included a "normal person", a teacher, who was going up to demonstrate how routine and safe space travel had become.

NASA had done a huge PR effort for the mission, especially focused on schoolchildren. Lots of schools had been doing projects about what Challenger was planned to do, and had more projects planned including lessons broadcast live from the teacher in space. The launch was broadcast live to the world, and the schools had encouraged their pupils to watch it. So lots of schoolchildren saw the explosion live. It was far more memorable than expected, it left a deep impression on a generation of space enthusiasts. Not something I will forget.

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