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O-Ring

It was a defining moment. On January 28, 1986 the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded and killed all seven astronauts aboard. It was a major setback in NASA's manned space flight program. But worse than what it did to NASA, something died in most Americans along with the astronauts.

Up until the explosion, Americans took a certain pride in the accomplishments of our space program. For some, there was a thrill in beating the Russians into space and being more advanced than they were, but there was more to it than "cold war" spite. 

During prayer meetings, WIWAK (when I was a kid), I would often hear the adults marvel at the advancements of medical science. If someone had a disease without a cure, the people would pray that God would aid the scientists as they worked on the problem. Anymore, I hear more about pharmaceutical company's profits, doctor's mistakes and insurance corruption than praise for medical science. Has a bit of our hope died? Oh, I can't prove there is a connection between the day our astronauts died and our eroded faith in science, but something has changed.

WIWAK, I'd hear people say, "Well, if we can put a man in space then surely we can . . ." People said that whenever they faced a difficult task or were up against impossible odds. Funny thing, I haven't heard that phrase lately. Did a bit of our optimism die with the astronauts?

What was the monumental cause of the shuttle disaster? With the millions of dollars that we've put into the shuttle program, it would have to be something big, right? Not exactly. Seventy-three seconds into the flight, a flame shot out of the side of one of the two solid rocket boosters. The point of failure was an O-ring. Some say it was made out of the wrong material, that it was vulnerable to frost. Others say it was too small. Regardless, it failed. Our astronauts died.

Small things, like O-rings do make a difference.

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