After I attended the final shuttle launch, I wrote about my thoughts regarding space shuttle Challenger, which exploded shortly after takeoff on Jan 28th, 1986. This moment served as one of the milestones that led to my interest in space and science in general.
My earliest memory is the aftermath of the Challenger incident. As a six year old, I couldn't put this into the proper historical perspective. However, there was a huge push for space and technology news within my school as well as my favorite media of the time - Highlights for Children and 3-2-1 Contact. I manned my own personal missions with my toy spacecraft, hoping that my impromptu Lego modular design would help against the inevitable alien encounter.
As a preteen, I took an astronomy class at the local community college, where we learned about planetary orbits, plotted constellations, and, of course, talked about the space shuttle. We even took a trip to the National Air and Space museum in DC, which was one of the first times I had been to a museum outside of the New York metro area. As a sign of the times, I also remember the bus stopping at a Dairy Queen on the way back, and playing the Simpsons arcade game with tree other friends as long as we could.
In a few years, I began to read the paper and watch the news on a daily basis. I always made sure to tune in for shuttle launches. There was no NASA TV or YouTube - the only way to experience NASA missions was to tune in live or for a recap. I always felt butterflies watching the coverage.