Today is the anniversary of the deaths of the crew of the shuttle Challenger in 1986. The tragedy was of course recognised world-wide and letters of sympathy flooded in to NASA and the White House. Historian Dwayne Day located a letter from a well-wisher among the papers of the late President Reagan. In light of subsequent history its sender’s name may surprise you.

Image of challenger launch

Challenger sets off on its tragic mission (image credit: NASA)

The letter reads in part:

“I have learned with profound sorrow the news of the explosion and crash of the Challenger. While viewing the accident as a great scientific loss, may I express my deepest condolences…to the American people and especially to the families of the victims of this accident. I pray that God will grant all of them fortitude.

Saddam Hussein, President of the Republic of Iraq”


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