Tuesday marks the 34th anniversary of the Space Shuttle Challenger tragedy which unfolded on Jan. 28, 1986, killing all seven crew members when the shuttle exploded during take-off.
Families of the astronauts watched in shock and horror as the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded and burst into pieces 73 seconds after launching on its highly publicized 10th mission.
Kathie Scobee Fulgham, daughter of shuttle commander Dick Scobee, was 23 at the time, according to a 2006 ABC News report.
34 years ago today, the Space Shuttle Challenger was lost 73 seconds into its 10th flight, killing all the astronauts on board. pic.twitter.com/SFrgiyceVb
— NBC News (@NBCNews) January 28, 2020
Fulgham was in the crew quarters, awaiting details about the explosion when her family made a discovery that would stay with them for the rest of their lives.
“My dad’s briefcase was in his room,” Fulgham told People in 2016, remembering the 30th anniversary of the shuttle disaster.
Decades later, Fulgham could still recall precisely what was inside her father’s briefcase — including a sentimental item that Dick Scobee had presumably planned to give to his wife.
“Mom opened it,” Fulgham said. “Among his personal belongings: a wallet, his keys, pictures of his family, shuttle souvenir pins, business cards, astronomy charts, flight manuals and an unsigned Valentine’s Day card for my mom. [There] was a scrap of paper bearing his handwriting.”
On the handwritten scrap paper was a quote from author Ben Bova, words that left Fulgham, her mother, June Scobee Rodgers, and brother, Richard Scobee, with a measure of hope during such a traumatic moment.
“We have whole planets to explore. We have new worlds to build. We have a solar system to roam in,” the note read.
“And if only a tiny fraction of the human race reaches out toward space, the work they do there will totally change the lives of all the billions of humans who remain on Earth, just as the striving of a handful of colonists in the new world totally changed the lives of everyone in Europe, Asia and Africa.”
— AP Images (@AP_Images) January 28, 2020
Fulgham, now in her 50s with four children of her own, told People her family could only speculate as to why her father had tucked the quote away in his briefcase.
“Maybe he was planning on using it for a speech. Maybe he just liked it,” she said. “But that message served as a beacon to us about why Dad chose the path he chose as an explorer. It gave us hope for the future — our future.”
Fulgham has honored her father’s legacy by educating future generations of Americans about space exploration.
“All the families want their work to continue,” Fulgham said of the Challenger space crew. “If the work didn’t continue, what would be the point of their deaths?”
Fulgham told People that if any of her children expressed interest in becoming an astronaut, she would “absolutely” encourage them to try.
“Absolutely. I will support my kids in anything they want to do, and I would be proud for them to go into space exploration. Very proud,” she said.
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