Three decades after Challenger, a soccer ball finally reaches space


Enlarge / A soccer ball stolen from a Challenger in 1986 finally reached space.

Shane Kimbrough / NASA

When Ellison Onizuka made his second flight as a mission specialist aboard the Space Shuttle Challenger in 1986, one of the personal effects he carried with him was a football signed by members of the team. boys and girls football tournament from Clear Lake High School, which her daughter attended. school. The shuttle, of course, broke 73 seconds into the start of flight after an O-ring failed in one of its solid rock thrusters.

Eventually, around 120 tonnes of the wreckage of the Challenger were recovered in the Atlantic Ocean, three quarters of which was in the crew cabin. In addition to the soccer ball signed by Falcon soccer players, according to CollectSpace, among Onizuka’s personal items recovered from the shuttle were a soccer ball and an American flag.

Now that soccer ball has returned to space. After being retrieved, the signed balloon was eventually returned to Clear Lake High School. Astronaut Shane Kimbrough’s son attends school and, as part of his current mission to the International Space Station, Kimbrough brought the balloon to the station. He tweeted a photo at the end of last week, saying: “That ball was on Challenger that fateful day. Flown by Ellison Onizuka for his daughter, a footballer.”

As always, the world turns, time flies and things return. Now Onizuka’s daughter, Janelle Onizuka-Gillian, is a “hawk mom”. In a statement released by the school, she said: “The soccer ball continued in many ways the mission my father embarked on so many years ago. He continued to travel and explore. space while inspiring so many people throughout its history. ”Indeed.