Where were you when Challenger exploded? Two books about the space shuttle.

The Space Shuttle Discovery at the Air & Space Museum in Dulles, VA

The Space Shuttle Discovery at the Air & Space Museum in Dulles, VA

Like many other people my age one of my most vivid memories of elementary school was an announcement on the loudspeaker explaining that Challenger exploded. All of the astronauts died, including a teacher. It's confusing to see your teachers upset when you're so young, and that's what I mostly remember. There was a very special Punky Brewster episode a few months later that made more sense of the situation, but I didn't really realize what this teacher in space from a neighboring state had meant to the ones who were educating me.

Despite deciding to get a degree in physics based on a scene I loved from the movie Apollo 13, despite spending many college nights looking at the stars for my senior seminar instead of just looking something up on the internet like a normal person, despite being hired by a Teacher-In-Space finalist who got me in to meet Barbara Morgan, Christa McAuliffe's back up who later flew on the space shuttle herself, I never knew much about the program.  That changed this year with two great books I can very highly recommend if to anyone who wants to read more about the shuttle.

Sally Ride was a totally kick butt astrophysicist and athlete who also happened to be America's first woman in space. This is a really great biography, one of the best books I read in 2015.

Leaving Orbit is a travelogue written by a woman who visits the last three shuttle launches. I haven't quite finished it yet, but I am enjoying it quite a bit. If you like Sara Vowell's books, you'll probably like this one too.

For a bit of perspective: at the same time the Mercury astronauts were being chosen, a nine-year-old African American boy was being asked to leave his town’s whites-only public library in Lake City, South Carolina. Fourth-grader Ronald McNair refused to leave until he could check out the books he had chosen, prompting the librarian to call the police. McNair eventually earned a PhD in physics from MIT, was selected in the astronaut class of 1978, and flew in space for the first time in 1984. He was killed in the space shuttle Challenger disaster in 1986. The library where he was once denied service is now named for him.
— Leaving Orbit by Margaret Lazarus Dean

Where were you when the Challenger exploded?


(Note: you can click on the images above to read a full description of the books on amazon.com. Links to amazon.com are affiliate links. Thanks for your support!)