The Challenger space shuttle disaster on January 28, 1986 was one of the darkest moments in modern American history. The tragedy stunned the nation and dealt a severe blow to the NASA space program.
Only 73 seconds after takeoff, a rocket booster exploded due to a faulty o-ring, killing all the astronauts on board. While many remember that schoolteacher Christa McCauliffe died in the accident, 7 other crew members were also killed. One of those was mission specialist Ellison Onizuka.
A recent article from ARS Technica explained that among the personal items Onizuka brought aboard the Challenger was a soccer ball in honor of his daughter who played soccer at Clear Lake High School in Texas.
Following the explosion, the soccer ball was incredibly recovered among the tons of debris from the crash.
30 years later, the ball that never reached space aboard the Challenger has finally made it.
American astronaut Shane Kimbrough, who is currently aboard the International Space Station, tweeted out a photo of Onizuka’s soccer ball floating inside the space station.
He brought the ball with him on his most recent trip to honor Onizuka and the fallen crew of the Challenger. Incredible.
— Shane Kimbrough (@astro_kimbrough) February 3, 2017
It turns out, Kimbrough’s daughter attends Clear Lake High School, the same high school Onizuka’s daughter attended at the time of the Challenger crash. He decided to take it with him to complete its trip.