(NOTE: The following is a fictionalized account of the 15 days in January 1986 leading up to the Challenger Space Shuttle disaster on the 28th of that month; however, the details of weather and NASA events are based on known historical data.)
Friday, January 24, 1986
High Temp: 66° F Low Temp: 55° F
This afternoon’s launch had to be scrubbed. The weather here was cool and damp, but the real problem was the weather at one of the abort landing sites. We have an alternate abort site but they cannot handle a nighttime landing (an abort on this side of the world would be a night landing there,) so the launch was rescheduled for tomorrow morning in case we have to activate the alternate abort site. That would allow Challenger to land in daylight at the alternate site if they have to abort.
The launch was then pushed back another day because of the morning versus afternoon liftoff. The problem is that we have a set amount of work to do and it was quickly determined that we would not be ready for launch by Saturday morning. Mission Control then moved the launch to Sunday morning.
Once we finally do get Challenger in orbit, the STS-51L mission has several goals. One will be to launch the TDRS-2 satellite, which is a communications relay station for analog and digital signals. These satellites are the next generation in communication technology allowing information to be transmitted around the world in seconds. Another small satellite called SPARTAN 203 is being deployed to observe Halley’s Comet, which will reach its perihelion (closest approach to the Sun) on February 9, 1986.
In addition, this mission will send our first “Teacher in Space.” More about that tomorrow.