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(NOTE: The following is a fictionalized account of the 15 days in January 1986 leading up to the Challenger Space Shuttle Disaster. The character’s account is fictional; however, the details of weather and Space Shuttle events are based on known historical facts.)

Titusville, Florida
Saturday, January 18, 1986
High Temp: 70° F  Low Temp: 61° F

STS-61C Columbia lands at night at Edwards AFB

Today was a good news/bad news day. The good news was that Columbia is back on Earth. The bad news that it didn’t come home. It’s sitting at Edwards AFB, which means it will add about a week to the turnaround time before it flies again. We just can’t seem to catch a break. The landing took place after dark after they waited as long as they could for a KSC landing attempt.

Our next launch is still scheduled for January 23, and I still don’t know how we can make it. I’m not sure anyone will be ready, but there are a bunch of smart people in air-conditioned rooms that must know more than the rest of us. Of course, Challenger won’t fly if we are not ready.

To give you an idea of the schedule we are looking at, here are the launches scheduled for this year:

1986 Space Transportation System (STS) Missions

  • January 12 (KSC) – Columbia (STS-61C) – Deploying a satellite and experiments (Completed)
  • January 24 (KSC) – Challenger (STS-51L) – Deploying satellites and experiments
  • March 6 (KSC) – Columbia (STS-61E) – Astro 1 mission
  • May 15  (KSC) – Challenger (STS-61F) – Deployment of Ulysses satellite
  • May 20 (KSC) – Atlantis (STS-61G) – Deployment of Galileo satellite
  • June 24 (KSC) – Columbia (STS-61H) – Deployment of 3 satellites
  • July 1 (Vandenberg) – Discovery (STS-62A) – Dept. of Defense mission
  • July 22 (KSC) – Challenger (STS-61M) – Deployment of TDRS-4 satellite
  • August 18 (KSC) – Atlantis (STS-61J) – Deployment of Hubble Space Telescope satellite
  • September 4 (Vandenberg) – Discovery (STS-61M) – Dept. of Defense mission
  • September 27 (KSC) – Challenger (STS-61I) – Deployment of Intelsat-4 satellite
  • September 29 (Vandenberg) – Discovery (STS-62B) – Dept. of Defense mission
  • October 1 (KSC) – Columbia (STS-61K) – Mission information not released
  • November 1 (KSC) – Atlantis (STS-61L) – Mission information not released
  • December (Vandenberg?) – Challenger (STS-71B) – Dept. of Defense mission

One down, 14 to go. 1986 is going to be a big year for NASA!