On the morning of 28 January 1986, barnacled Salvage Boatswain George Yatsko and I were sitting in our stateroom on board the USS Preserver (ARS-8), waiting for the special sea- and anchor-detail to be announced, when a diver pushed open the hatch and said, “The space shuttle Challenger just exploded soon after launch and is falling off the coast.” On the wardroom’s television we watched the tragedy replay with the rest of America. None of us then could have imagined that, by the mishap’s 25th anniversary this month, NASA would have decommissioned its fleet of manned space vehicles and the Navy its fleet of diving ships. That era of astronauts and aquanauts has now been nearly overtaken by the unmanned and robotic revolutions.
Challenger: The Beginning of the End
A Navy special-operations officer looks back at the space shuttle Challenger recovery 25 years later.
By Captain David Belt, U.S. Navy (Retired)