History Book: Remembering the maiden voyage of the Challenger

Next up on The World and Everything in It … the WORLD Radio History Book. Today, we remember a devout Lutheran composer. Plus, the 35th anniversary of the maiden voyage of the Space Shuttle Challenger.


But first, the death of an Anglican layman, philanthropist, and Sunday School pioneer. Here’s Paul Butler.  

PAUL BUTLER: Today we begin with April 5th, 1811, and the death of the father of English Sunday school: Robert Raikes. While not the first to promote religious instruction for children. His Sunday School was a harbor for poor and exploited children.

Raikes was editor of the Gloucester Journal and an advocate of jail reform. Frustrated by the difficulties of character reformation once incarcerated, he began contemplating prevention instead of cures. While visiting a slum, he was distressed by the conduct and depravity of the children—reminding him of the old adage: “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop.”

Raikes approached the Reverend Thomas Stock of Ashbury, Berkshire. Together, they started a Sunday school for boys. Students were catechized, and learned to read and write—with the Bible as their textbook. Soon, the schools were opened to girls as well. The idea spread quickly, though not everyone approved.

AUDIO BBC ARCHIVE: There were Christians who thought that on the Sabbath you shouldn’t work. And learning writing, smacked too much of work on the Sabbath. And they weren’t happy at all about the poor having uncensored access to the Bible … .

Audio from the BBC television program: Songs of Praise. Over the next 30 years, Raikes helped start many Sunday Schools across England. At the time of his death, a half-million students were regularly attending. Many cite Raikes’ religious instruction program as a catalyst for the current English school system.


Next, April 3rd, 1897, German pianist and romantic composer Johannes Brahms dies at age 63. Born into a devout Lutheran family, Brahms wrote many choral works inspired by the Lutheran Bible. His German Requiem, written in 1868, is considered by most music scholars to be his most significant work.


Today, many Brahms melodies are still familiar hymn tunes, though his most recognizable composition is sung the world-over, with most people unaware that he was its creator.


And finally, April 4th, 1983, 35 years ago this week:

(AUDIO ARCHIVE: FIRST LAUNCH OF CHALLENGER: Lift off of the orbiter Challenger and the 6th flight of the space shuttle.)

The Space Shuttle Challenger makes its maiden voyage, a mission lasting only 3 days. The shuttle program began 11 years earlier, when NASA and aeronautics giant North American Rockwell began designing a reusable space vehicle.

(AUDIO: So what we’re doing right now Rick is …)

The shuttle’s cargo-bay provides greater flexibility for space bound payloads—both for satellite launches and supply missions to the International Space Station. Additionally, the large crew compartment provides scientists many lower-cost options for low-orbit experiments and research.

The Challenger shuttle completed 9 successful missions, but in 1986, it exploded 73-seconds into its 10th flight. Tens of thousands of school children watched the tragedy live on TV, since astronaut Christa McAuliffe was a school teacher.

(AUDIO ARCHIVE: We have a report replayed through the flight dynamics officer that the vehicle has exploded.)

Ronald Reagan postponed his scheduled State of the Union speech to address the nation.

(AUDIO ARCHIVE, REAGAN: We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for their journey and waved goodbye and “slipped the surly bonds of earth” to “touch the face of God.”)

After the accident, the shuttle fleet was grounded for almost three years during the investigation. Faulty “O-rings” were determined as the primary cause of the accident, leading to many engineering redesigns.

That’s this week’s WORLD Radio History Book, I’m Paul Butler.

(AP Photo) The space shuttle Challenger leaves the Kennedy Space Station, April 4, 1983.

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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