I grew up with beautiful glossy posters of the space shuttle looking down at me from my bedroom walls. My father had taken our family to a science teacher’s convention, and I was mesmerized by the NASA booth. The people seemed to know everything. They answered all my little-kid questions about space, showed me all kinds of cool gadgets, and sent me home with all manner of space shuttle posters. This is the future, they said, and I marveled at it all.
I was a sophomore in high school when the space shuttle Challenger exploded. Someone came into the classroom and whispered to our trigonometry teacher and then left. She took a minute to gather herself before she told us. The sudden, violent loss of Challenger and its crew made it clear that reality was not a glossy poster. Gleaming white machinery could turn into grey flame and black ash, taking the best and the brightest down from the heavens as it fell. The future changed for me that day.