The Crew of the Challenger: STS-51L


Left to Right: Mission Specialist, Ronald McNair, Payload Specialist, Gregory Jarvis, Teacher in Space Participant, Christa McAuliffe. Directly behind them: Mission Specialist Judy Resnik and Mission Specialist, Ellison Onizuka.

January and Early February are a somber time for NASA.  The Apollo 1 fire occurred on January 27th, the Challenger was lost on January 28th, and the Columbia on February 1st.  I can’t imagine this time of the year for the those at NASA who worked with the astronauts lost furthering our knowledge of ourselves and the cosmos.

Two years ago, with this on my mind, I created a tribute to the crew of Apollo 1 – some part of me wanted to say “we remember you”.  My hope was to bring the crews, their memories, and their images into today.  This year, I decided to do the same for the Challenger and Columbia’s crews.

I try to find behind-the-scenes images of the crews and do not normally choose press photos.  Unfortunately, finding source images, especially those of good quality which communicate the crew members’ personalities, is not always easy.  Once I have the image(s), I take them into Photoshop and Lightroom for noise reduction, sharpening, tonal changes, and cropping.  I also add my own small, but restrained, artistic touch to the source material(s).

For the Challenger crew, I started with the first image above taken during an emergency egress exercise 20 days prior to launch. The image resonated with me, but the original was quite poor and it did not show the full crew.  I couldn’t, in good conscience, publish it alone.  I very much wanted the whole crew to be represented, hence the second image.  While it is a press photo, I do feel the personalities of the crew come across.


From the back row, left to right: Mission Specialist, Ellison S. Onizuka, Teacher in Space Participant Sharon Christa McAuliffe, Payload Specialist, Greg Jarvis and Mission Specialist, Judy Resnik. In the front row from left to right: Pilot Mike Smith, Commander, Dick Scobee and Mission Specialist, Ron McNair.

The before/unedited images Courtesy of NASA.

Ali_Elhajj_STS-51L Crew