NASA official here reminded of 1986 tragedy she witnessed

By GAYLE COULTER State Journal Staff Writer Published:

Frankfort resident Sue Darnell Ellis, who serves as national coordinator for state-based education programs for NASA, said she was "chilled and stunned" to discover the space shuttle Columbia disintegrated before landing Saturday morning.

"There are not enough words to describe the feelings of loss and sadness," Ellis said, "and the knowledge that we will have to learn what happened and continue to move forward."

Saturday's tragedy reminded her of the last tragic space-related accident - which she witnessed.

Ellis was one of 114 finalists for the Teacher in Space Program. Christa McAuliffe was selected for the spot on the Challenger but Ellis went to Florida the morning of Jan. 28, 1986, to watch the launch.

The exhilaration of watching a fellow teacher take off for space turned to horror as the Challenger exploded 73 seconds after liftoff killing all seven crew members on board.

"Obviously, this morning was extremely reminiscent of Jan 28, 1986," Ellis said. "There was no way I could have not immediately thought back to the events of 17 years ago. That was a devastating day and this has been a devastating, chilling day. The fact that both occurred in the winter also came to my mind. I'm not a superstitious person but it certainly rings weird to me."

For more on this story, see the latest State Journal.

Want to leave your comments?

Sign in or Register to comment.