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Thirty years ago today, I, like millions of other children around the United States, was in front of a TV at school watching the first teacher fly into space. What I saw instead was the Challenger explode. I believe this is the news moment of my generation–what the Kennedy assassination was for older people and what 9/11 was for a generation younger. It’s one event where almost everyone remembers where they were when it happened. Partly that’s because the answer was watching it live. Moreover, 1986 was the end of the golden age of the space program. The moon landings, Mars explorations, Skylab, the space shuttles–through all of this the era of people in space seemed possible. Sending a teacher into space was a brilliant move by NASA to inspire a new generation. What it did though was kill the generation’s interest in space programs. The only thing to inspire people in the last 30 years is Hubble and that’s very different from manned space stations. The idea of exploring space as the final frontier is no more, just a realm of science fiction. I strongly believe the Challenger explosion is the primary reason. NASA has contracted out with private companies to develop trips into space. We’ll see.

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