Twenty-eight years ago today, January 28, 1986, the space shuttle, Challenger, blew up during its ascent, killing everyone onboard, including teacher, Christa McAuliffe. 

As a lifelong believer in the potential for the human race to eventually become part of the galactic community by reaching out to the stars, I felt particularly affected by the event, and even more so because people began claiming that human beings had no business in outer space. 

In fact, I felt so moved to speak out on the need for humans to explore the galaxy that I wrote an open letter to President Ronald Reagan volunteering to be the first person from the social services profession to fly on a shuttle. The letter, in edited form, was published in the New York Times.

Here it is:

"Space is our destiny"

Published in the NY Times: February 9, 1986

To the Editor:

The shattering tragedy of the Challenger on Jan. 28 will no doubt stir up such sentiments as ''if man were meant to fly, he'd have wings.'' Some will say that we should send only unmanned probes into space.

I disagree. Human beings do have wings. Our wings are our minds, and our minds have always compelled us to reach out and look beyond the boundaries of the observable. We honor the spirit of Christopher Columbus for daring to explore ''the edge'' of a flat Earth, as we reveled in the spirit of Christa McAuliffe, who dared to teach from beyond the classroom.

The logic of statistical probability tells us that we are only one of perhaps millions of civilizations in this universe, that we most surely have brothers and sisters out there. We are compelled to meet them and know them because we are all part of the same whole. Perhaps we can be helped in our development someday by a more advanced civilization. Perhaps we can make a contribution. But we cannot stay at home, retreating into ourselves. People must be prepared to travel in space. It is our destiny.

I envied Mrs. McAuliffe. She was living out my greatest fantasy: to view the Earth as a whole planet from space. I am a psychiatric social worker, waiting for the day when a President or NASA asks for someone from the human-services field to volunteer for a similar mission. I am ready to go! 
PETER V. LOFFREDO New York, Jan. 29, 1986

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