I have a new rule: For any phenomena that happens within the bounds of human perception, there will be a website that claims it never happened. So it is, tragically, that I am no longer unable to un-see the website that claims that the Challenger explosion never happened. I debated not linking to it. But then I remembered that people were having a hard time understanding how Donald Trump could be a leading presidential candidate. I urge you not read this website if you’re feeling particularly nihilistic today, but if some good old-fashioned crazy-assed lunacy is your cup of tea, here you go.
I found this site while looking for the famous last image of the crew heading out to the shuttle. I was a child of the Space Age. That time before America became a “Can’t Do Unless It Increases Shareholder Value” country. I know enough history to know that a lot of the impetus behind the technology push that took us to the moon was based on Cold War fears, but it was a thrilling time to be a small child anyway. I remember standing in the front windows of Glendale Elementary School in Independence, MO in 1967 as Apollo 7 raced to the moon that was visible that morning. I remember not resenting my mom making me say my prayers when Apollo 13 struggled to come back.1 I was a little unclear about how the Act of Contrition was going to help, but I was up for anything. And I improvised some. It seemed like it was worth the risk.
Then the Challenger blew up. After six years of Reagan, it was a metaphor I’d have just as soon not had the opportunity to experience. Somewhere in a box I have the initial UPI Flash Bulletin off the teletype machine that was in the production room of WSAU, the radio station at Stephen F. Austin State University. Years later, when I was at the University of Georgia, I had the opportunity to get to know David Hazinski. He covered the launch for NBC News. Somehow it never occurred to me to ask him, “Hey David, by the way, that was all a fake, right?” Since there was a reasonable chance I would have asked him that in a bar, there’s a better than average chance I would have gotten a beer bottle between the eyes as a reward. As a weird coda, years later when Columbia broke up over Dallas/Ft. Worth, a lot of the debris came down in Nacogdoches. I read a report somewhere that a big chunk was pulled off the lawn of Mays Hall where I was Hall Director for a while.
So now there’s a website that claims those seven brave people didn’t die that day and hundreds, if not thousands, of people had their lives ripped apart in ways big and small. Apparently everything NASA says is a lie because if NASA isn’t lying then the earth isn’t really flat and these people will have to derive the meaning for their lives from … something else.
They can bite me.
In another weird coda I’ve lived in Asheville, NC twice in my life. It’s in Buncombe County, and it’s actually where we get the word “bunk” from. So I damned sure know bunk when I see it.
1I’d love to say I remember seeing Neil Armstrong step on the moon, but I fell asleep and missed it. I was six. Sue me.