space shuttle on launchpad at night

Many moons ago, sometime in the early 90’s, I had the opportunity to have a front row seat at the launch of the Space Shuttle. It was a humbling experience, as I witnessed the amazing coordination required to ensure a successful shuttle launch. It was the evening before the launch when I had the opportunity to get close enough to the launch pad to take this photo. Keep in mind, I was using a film camera at night with several people surrounding me saying “hurry up Max!”. While setting up this photo, I will never forget seeing the astronauts and their families lining up on either side of the launchpad road to say their final goodbyes. Not something you record with a camera, but rather it is something you just absorb. A conversation mixed with hope, fear, pride, courage and love. A truly American conversation, if such a thing ever existed.

35 years ago today, we lost the Challenger, and all the brave astronauts aboard her. I will never forget the shock I felt when I passed a TV and saw the tragedy unfold in front of me.

The morning I witnessed the launch, I remember the silence in the gallery when over the loudspeaker we heard the rising shuttle be advised to “go for throttle up”. Everyone in the gallery remembered that moment. They all knew what “go for throttle up” meant for the Challenger. And all of us who witnessed that fatal moment still remember it as if it is frozen in time. A moment – a day – that will always be lost in space, but forever etched in our hearts.

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