Former astronaut Marc Garneau recalls Challenger explosion

Former astronaut and current Transportation Minister Marc Garneau can clearly recall the horrific moment he saw the Challenger space shuttle explode over the Atlantic Ocean – the same shuttle he’d flown in just two years prior.

See Full Article

Garneau spoke with CTV News Channel on Thursday, to look back on the tragedy on its 30-year anniversary and remember the seven astronauts who lost their lives aboard Challenger.

“I remember that day, being at the Johnson Space Center,” Garneau said. “We had trouble really processing what we were seeing with our eyes … we were in a sense playing tricks with our minds and trying not to believe something that inside ourselves we really knew what had happened.”

Garneau said the anniversary marks “a very sad day for me personally” because he had trained and become close friends with the astronauts who died. He had also journeyed aboard the Challenger in 1984 as the mission’s payload specialist.

The tragedy unfolded on Jan. 28, 1986 as Challenger launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The lift off appeared normal until the shuttle began to careen off course and, just 73-seconds into the flight, burst into flames.

The explosion was broadcast live around the globe, marking one of the darkest days for NASA and space travel as a whole. All seven crew members aboard were killed, including Christa McAuliffe, a school teacher who’d been specially chosen to fly in the mission.

“There had been 25 space flights with a shuttle and they’d all went well, but then, suddenly, this one went horribly wrong,” Garneau said.

The explosion took an immediate toll on the astronaut community, who were “very shaken” by the accident, Garneau said, despite the keen understanding of the possible dangers of space travel.

“That day we were reminded very, very clearly that things can go wrong. The important thing afterwards was to learn from the experience for everybody and to try to make sure that it didn’t happen again,” he said.

An investigation later determined that a faulty “O-ring” seal on a rocket booster allowed hot gas to escape, leading to the explosion. Cold temperatures are believed to have factored in to the explosion as well.

Garneau says that space travel will never be “100 per cent safe,” but important lessons were learned.

“I think NASA came out of it as a safer organization, that they had learned some important lessons and that in fact is what is most important here,” he said.

Despite the Challenger’ disaster, Garneau said the lure of space remained strong.

“I don’t think there was a single astronaut who had not flown who said ‘I’m quitting. I’m not going to be in this profession.’ I think that the lure for the individual of wanting to go into space is so powerful we are prepared to accept some risk,” he said.



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • Iranian parliament labels entire U.S. military as terrorist

    World News CTV News
    TEHRAN, Iran -- Iranian media say the parliament has approved a bill that labels all U.S. military forces as terrorist. The legislation is a step further after Iranian lawmakers last week approved a bill labelling U.S. Source
  • Preparations underway for Kim-Putin summit in Russia

    World News CTV News
    MOSCOW -- Preparations are underway for a summit between the leader of North Korea and Russia's president, Russian officials and media reported Tuesday. The Kremlin confirmed earlier this month that Kim Jong Un would meet with President Putin before the end of the month but has not named the place or date, citing security concerns. Source
  • Judge to sentence man who killed daughter, 5, to make estranged wife suffer

    Canada News CTV News
    ST. JOHN'S, N.L. -- A Newfoundland man who killed his five-year-old daughter in what the Crown said was a calculated plan to inflict suffering on his estranged wife will be sentenced today. A jury convicted Trent Butt of first-degree murder in March in the death of his daughter Quinn. Source
  • New commemorative loonie marking 'progress' for LGBTQ2 people to be unveiled today

    Canada News CTV News
    TORONTO -- The Royal Canadian Mint is unveiling a new commemorative loonie today meant to mark what it calls a key milestone for lesbian, gay, transgender, queer and two-spirited people in the country. The agency says the new one-dollar coin pays tribute to Parliament's passing of legislation that "initiated the decriminalization of homosexuality in Canada. Source
  • Ceremonies, vigils planned in Toronto to honour victims of deadly van attack

    Canada News CTV News
    TORONTO -- Ceremonies and vigils are planned today to honour those killed or injured in last year's deadly van attack in north Toronto. The City of Toronto is holding an event at the Mel Lastman Square Amphitheatre at 1:30 p.m. Source
  • Strong voter turnout expected in Prince Edward Island provincial election

    Canada News CTV News
    CHARLOTTETOWN -- It's election day in Prince Edward Island and voter turnout is expected to be strong. More than 36 per cent of eligible voters have already cast their ballots in the advance polls, in a province that traditionally sees voter turnout at more than 80 per cent. Source
  • 'New IRA' admits killing Northern Ireland journalist

    World News CTV News
    LONDON -- An Irish Republican Army splinter group has admitted that one of its "volunteers" killed journalist Lyra McKee, who was shot dead while reporting on rioting in Londonderry. In a statement issued Tuesday to the Irish News, the New IRA offered "full and sincere" apologies to McKee's family and friends. Source
  • Woman arrested in slaying of Northern Ireland journalist: police

    World News CTV News
    LONDON -- The Northern Ireland Police Service said Tuesday they have arrested a woman under the Terrorism Act in connection with the slaying of journalist Lyra McKee. The arrest of the 57-year-old under the Terrorism Act came as an Irish Republican Army splinter group admitted that one of its "volunteers" killed journalist McKee, who was shot dead while reporting on rioting in Londonderry. Source
  • Woman arrested in killing of Northern Ireland reporter

    World News CBC News
    The Northern Ireland Police Service says they have arrested a woman under the Terrorism Act in the slaying of journalist Lyra McKee. The 57-year-old woman was arrested Tuesday under the terrorism act. An Irish Republican Army splinter group earlier admitted that one of its "volunteers" killed McKee, who was shot dead while reporting on rioting in Londonderry. Source
  • P.E.I. heads to the polls today — and it could make history

    Canada News CBC News
    Islanders are voting today in an election campaign unlike any other in P.E.I.'s history. It marks the first three-way race in a province long beholden to a two-party system, and has the Green Party hoping to make an unprecedented breakthrough. Source