The Space Shuttle Challenger: 25 Years Later

More than any other media, cartoons have the ability to sum up important events into one single, powerful image, and tap into the collective mood of the country.

Some perfect examples of this are a couple of cartoons drawn in light of today’s anniversary of the space shuttle Challenger disaster, which happened 25 years ago today.

The first is drawn by Jeff Parker, the staff cartoonist at Florida Today. His paper is based on the Space Coast, and one of their main beats is covering NASA, so when it came time to remember the astranauts that were killed during this tragedy, Jeff had to feel for the collective pulse of not only the community he works and lives in, but the country at large. His tribute cartoon is simple, powerful and captures the mood of the country when thinking back on this tragic event.

space shuttle challenger NASA 25th anniversary

The second cartoon comes from Dave Granlund, and touches on the impact teacher turned astronaut Christa McAuliffe continues to have on students across the country. The Challenger accident dealt a harsh blow to America in large part because Christa inspired millions of teachers and students to tune into the launch to see her become NASA’s first teacher in space.

Christa McAuliffe Teacher space shuttle challenger NASA 25th anniversary

Cartoons can do more than entertain us. They can give us insight into world events, hold politicians accountable and as these cartoons show, tap into the mood of the country to not only remember important events, but place them into the proper historical context. All in one image.

By Daryl Cagle

Daryl Cagle is the founder and owner of Cagle Cartoons, Inc. He is one of the most widely published editorial cartoonists and is also the editor of The Cagle Post.

5 replies on “The Space Shuttle Challenger: 25 Years Later”

I have never quite gotten over the shuttle disaster of 1986. I was taking my wife to Mayo Clinic in MN. In a small diner in Waterloo IA I saw the video of the shuttle blowing up and could not believe my eyes. I was most sad for the young teacher but also for the whole crew. It seemed so unfair that our first civilian teacher in space would meet this ending. Maybe her story could inspire us all to do our best to learn and compete in this world of ours today. I truly will never get over this disaster, as the Kennedy assassination still haunts me. Maybe we can make a positive out of this 25 years later and dedicate Christie McAuliffe's life to higher standards of learning for our country in the future.

Well said, Daryl, and I can certainly identify with the comment left by James Hedman. The Challenger Disaster is right up there with the Kennedy Assassination for me, too. I hope we have a moon base or moon street or something named for every astronaut or cosmonaut who has lost his or her life in getting us there. It's the least we can do.

This disaster was avoidable. The issues with freezing and frost were completely bypassed due to Reagan's insistence on completing the lift off to add to his stature as president. I watched the event from the couch due to the flu. Dreadful. But the blame lies solely with Reagan. Those involved with the space program are not stupid. Reagan was.

Yes, some of the shuttle cartoons are very good.

Unfortunately viewing them is an exercise in futility as there are more internal server errors, and 404 errors, than one could believe possible.

Oddly enough most of them seem to run down NASA and the Shuttle. I realize that cartoonists are artists, not scientists or historians. But surely, before drawing a cartoon on such a serious topic, you would expect that they do a little research first.

Most of these cartoons praise "private enterprise" and "Spaceship One"… meanwhile they denigrate NASA, and the Shuttle, and the space Program and all the brave men and women… "who got us there"… This is the height of ignorance, and is VERY offending and insulting. It also shows a marked disregard for the facts.

If it was not for NASA and the government taking the lead in the 1960's and '60's and '70's…. and developing all the technology needed to go into space, and monitor what is going on during the trip, there would be NO Spaceship One, and absolutely NO private enterprise involved!

The shuttle was envisioned in the 1950's, designed by slide rule guys in the 1960's, the technology built and perfected in the 1970's, and finally the first launch took place with Columbia, in 1981. Since then, this modest fleet has served us VERY well! About 119 missions have been launched, the majority of them very successful. The shuttle is the most powerful, complicated, high tech, and certainly one of the biggest machines ever built by humanity. The feats it has performed, will never be duplicated again, as we are at the end of the cheap energy, and cheap raw materials era. Soon, no nation will be able to afford space, as we struggle just to survive on Earth.

I was very disappointed by the majority of these cartoons! Pride, and happiness… at all that was accomplished, should be the theme of these cartoons. Sorrow, and pain, for the losses along the way, also. But then, were we (and some cartoonists) so stupid and vain as to expect no losses? As has been said about space: "Space is RISK. And RISK, is our business."

There is nothing wrong with private enterprise and big business. There is nothing wrong with Spaceship One. But it will be a number of years before Spaceship One is capable of doing more than send a few overly wealthy tourists to the edge of space for 15 minutes, and gliding back to Earth. Spaceship One is not yet, and indeed may never be, capable of real work in space. The shuttle was a workhorse. There is nothing wrong with it, and a few dollars and some tinkling along with the application of some modern technology (alongside the incredible technology that it already is!), would be able to give us a few decades more of exemplary service from this fine machine.

Thank you for letting me vent! I mean no offense to the cartoonists, who as I said are great and highly imaginative artists of first water. But they are not scientists or space experts. They should have done some R&D before setting pencil to paper.

I was 31 years old, single, and had always been a fan of science fiction, especially in light of how much of what was formerly fiction had turned into fact, as it continues to do. I remember envying Christa McAuliffe and stating quite confidently that if they were sending up another shuttle the following day and would let me on it, I'd jump at the chance. Just a few years later, when I'd married and had children, I would not have, but I remember the feeling well.

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