In 1986, instead of an elementary school teacher, NASA had initially considered Big Bird as their final passenger on the ill-fated Challenger mission…

Elmo: —our dear friends will be missed, and we must never forget, so they can live in our hearts forever!

Kid: They’re… dead?

Kid 2: (recognizing human-avian mortality) B-bb-bbhh… 

(Kids sob on National TV)

Producer: (into mic) Plan B — Bring out Big Bird.

(Big Bird understudy walks in from studio left)

Big Bird: (dancing) You thought I was gonna be gone forever? 

Elmo: Like a Phoenix he rises from the ashes!

(Kids cheer)

Kid: And what about all of the astronauts?

Kid 2: Are they all okay, too?

(For a moment, everything is still)

Producer: (into mic) ….. Plan C…. Bring them out….

(Challenger Space Team Muppets walk in from studio right)