Tonight I heard a very disturbing piece on NPR that I had never heard before about the Space shuttle Challenger. It’s the 30th anniversary of the fateful day of its explosion. I suppose it’s slightly personal, because the teacher on board who died also taught in the state from where I have just recently moved.

Anyway….NPR did an interview tonight with an engineer who had apparently warned NASA that it would not be safe to send the ship up because of the low temperatures. He and another engineer (now dead) apparently repeatedly warned them not to launch as it wouldn’t be safe. And yet, they did. And we all know the sad outcome–sad because I guess it didn’t have to happen if they had only waited.

The really hard part of this newscast was that the engineer who is still alive, now 89 years old, has lived with huge guilt his whole life! What he said during his interview brought me to tears–it was literally heartbreaking that he felt it was his fault that those people died because he didn’t make it clear enough to NASA that they shouldn’t fly! The poor man. He felt God picked the wrong man to have the information about the fated flight to pass on….


But in truth, probably no-one could have changed the outcome. Certainly when dealing with a machine like NASA, stopping the wheels of something like a launch would probably take an act of God–not some lowly engineer telling them they shouldn’t do something! No-one 30 years ago figured out why they didn’t listen–and who knows? It could have been any dumb reason. And maybe there are better checks in place now since the space program isn’t what it used to be and doesn’t have the money to spare blowing up space crafts randomly.

I heard arguments over the years that yes, it was very sad about a civilian getting killed, but on the other hand she did sign up for it. Some people feel there are other more important things to feel sad about: like poverty and kids going hungry. Yes, that certainly makes sense to me.

Let’s face it though: no-one should have to die needlessly! And no-one should have to carry around the burden of 30 years of guilt because other people turned a deaf ear.

So the moral of the story for me is: Whatever we are doing, in whatever job: big or small or even our every day interactions with each other–we all just need to listen! Because you never know when someone says that one important thing that may just end up being something that could end up changing the course of someone else’s life–hopefully in a good way!

Let’s take the time, slow down and just…listen. Even if you are a huge corporation!! After all, they are just made up of individual people, just like the ones that died wanting to go home to the people they loved!

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6 thoughts on “Listen

  1. How sad! The “little” voices do get lost, whether in large companies, the government, wherever. But as you say, every individual counts, and perhaps if someone had listened to this engineer, that whole tragedy could have been avoided. What a senseless waste of human life!

  2. If you can pull it up, I recommend listening to it on It was really something! I had no idea. The poor guy to carry that with him all these years…. 😦

  3. There were some rumours of corner cutting on the safety side of things at the time if I remember rightly. If so, it was a high price to pay for it.

  4. From what I read, these came out after it crashed! The engineer had to hide all the documentation and send copies to his wife so they wouldn’t destroy it. Then when they finally admitted they had made a mistake was he able to bring forth the copies of his letters telling them beforehand that something was wrong! Grrrr.

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