Mike Hindes was looking through his grandfather, Bill Rendle's home for photos to use in his grandmother's memorial service. In a box, he found photos of the space shuttle Challenger disaster. These unearthed photos were shared on Reddit and quickly went viral. Mike Hindes talked to International Business Times about the Challenger photos and the incredible response that's seen him flooded with media requests as well as many supportive messages.
Hindes shared the photos on Reddit as AmericanMustache and described the events leading up to the discovery. "My grandmother actually passed peacefully last week, and was because of her passing that I found these. We were all going through boxes and boxes of photos to find pictures to display at her memorial. I just happened to get the box with the Challenger pictures at the bottom, which was kind of special for me because I am the biggest NASA fan in the family," said Hindes.
The space shuttle Challenger was set to launch on Jan. 28, 1986 but broke up soon after launch, killing the seven astronauts, Francis R. Scobee; Michael J. Smith; Ellison S. Onizuka; Judith A. Resnik; Ronald E. McNair; Christa McAuliffe; and Gregory B. Jarvis. It was later discovered that the failure was due to a faulty O-ring seal.
As for his personal connection to the Challenger disaster, Hindes said, "I was at school at the time, 3rd or 4th grade, but we were watching it on the television and it was kind of confusing as to what happened. We didn’t really understand and it wasn’t until later on, when the principal made the announcement, we were all in shock."
The photos were not taken by his grandfather. Hindes said in the Reddit thread, "These were photos given to my grandfather by the guy who took the pictures. So it is entirely possible that the man who gave them to him also gave them to many other people. I searched really hard to see if these exact ones were out there, but couldn't find them."
Hindes said his grandfather saw the launch from the highway. "He was driving from Daytona to Orlando and he actually worked for NASA at that time. He pulled off to the side of the highway and he was watching it go up and up and then he said he saw it stopped in midair and he just knew something was wrong," said Hindes of his grandfather's experience. "Talking to him the other day, he was thinking back and he worked on the launch pad. He and others were talking and they were worried they made a mistake or they had something to do with it. Obviously he didn’t but that was a part of his concern."
Following his post on Reddit, the images were soon shared throughout the Internet and Hindes was “absolutely blown away” by the response. As a science major and a huge fan of NASA, he was excited by the photos of a space shuttle launch but didn’t realize what he had until he saw the image of the shuttle exploding and at that point his “heart just stopped.”
The response and support after posting them online has been the best part for Hindes and his grandfather. The discovery of the Challenger photos could have been bittersweet, reminding one of the 1986 disaster coupled with the incredibly positive response, Hindes describes his grandfather’s mood as one close to happiness. Paraphrasing his grandfather’s response, Hindes said, “It’s interesting we found the pictures of the Challenger but that’s the news. The important thing is so many people still remember this.”
Hindes said his grandfather is overwhelmed but the reaction has been nice following the death of his wife. Part of the reaction has been the new appreciation for all things science, NASA and space. NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover has a personality and has over a million Twitter followers while Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield made his time aboard the International Space Station a viral experience. Space exploration has become personal again, with millions of individuals forging their own unique connection to each launch, mission and astronaut.
The Challenger disaster had a similar effect, with each individual touched by the event. Talking to Hindes, his personal experience gained new meaning when he began scanning the photos. “When I was scanning the pictures into the computer, I scanned them horizontally. So I was looking at the sequence on my computer of the shuttle going across and it was so weird because, all of a sudden, I could tell there were people inside there. It was just looking at it from a different perspective, it’s kind of hard to put into words, I guess it gave a more human feeling to me.”