73 seconds after launch on a particularly cold Florida morning 36 years ago today, the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded, killing astronauts Dick Scobee, Michael Smith, Judith Resnik, Ellison Onizuka, Ron McNair, Greg Jarvis, and Christa McAuliffe.
On March 21st, 1987, a permanent marker paying tribute to the crew was placed at Arlington National Cemetery. The marker’s face features likenesses of the crew and the following dedication:
and Loving Tribute
To the Brave Crew
of the United States
Space Shuttle Challenger
28 January 1986
Inscribed on the back of the marker is this poem:
Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
and danced the skies on laughter silvered wings,
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
of sun split clouds – and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of wheeled and soared and swung
high in the sunlit silence hov’ring there.
I’ve chased the shouting wind along and flung
my eager craft through footless halls of air….
Up, up the long delirious, burning blue
I’ve topped the windswept heights with easy grace
Where never lark or even eagle flew
and while with silent, lifting mind I’ve trod
the high untrespassed sanctity of space
put out my hand, and touched the face of God.
– John Gillespie Magee, Jr.