Saturday, May 2, 2009

Space Shuttle, Challenger Disaster

The space shuttle, Challenger crashed in 1986, and the whole crew was killed, including a teacher. I chose to look at articles from January 8, 1986, the day of the crash. The Houston Chronicle article focused on the teacher who died, Christa McAuliffe, and the other crew, as well as the students in McAuliffe’s school in Concord, NH. The article does not ask the question “why.” No mention about what happened or who’s fault the explosion might be. The article focused on the events and listed the crew and each of their respective achievements. It seems like the quotations they used and the language supports NASA in their efforts. No difficult questions are posed in this article, written by Carlos Byars, a Chronicle science writer. We were putting tons of money into the space program then, and our government was avoiding the contra-gate scandal by focusing on the quaint idea of a teacher in space. In fact, other articles question why the disaster happened and what they did wrong. The article says positive things about NASA. It almost seems like the Chronicle is trying to defend NASA by not echoing the question each American had on her mind, “What caused this malfunction. Is it NASA’s fault?” This article gives the facts of what other people observed happen that day, but it also talks about NASA and how the crash will affect them. The main concern seems to be that the disaster will delay more flights, therefore impending NASA’s progress.

The LA Times’ coverage of the disaster is much more complete. While it, too leads with the disaster and people’s reactions to it, there is a paragraph dealing with various scenarios of what might have happened. The scenarios are incomplete and they are speculation, but they at least address why the shuttle crashed. It is also mentioned that Reagan has suspended more flights pending a probe. There is no mention of a possible investigation in the Houston Chronicle article. This article doesn’t mention NASA’s chances of continuing the program. It spent less time on the gory details of the crash, and more on the who, what, where, why and when of the event. Perhaps that is because LA is far from Houston, therefore the paper there doesn’t feel the need to protect the space program that Houston might.

Challenger explodes/Shuttle falls into ocean; crew apparently killed; [5 STAR Edition] CARLOS BYARS, Houston Chronicle Science Writer. Houston Chronicle Jan 28, 1986.

Shuttle Explodes; All 7 Die Teacher on Board as Challenger Blows Up on Liftoff Reagan Postpones Future Flights Pending a Probe; [Late Final Edition]
MICHAEL SEILER, PETER H. KING. Los Angeles Times Jan. 28th, 1986

1 comment:

  1. Yes, from what you said it seems to me that the Chronicle didn't want to anger NASA and lose them as a source of information, mainly, of course, about the space program. And it makes sense that the LA Times had nothing to lose, at least, not as much as Chronicle had to lose. It's a shame.