The Space Shuttle Challenger disaster was an incident in the United States space program that ended fatally. It happened on January 28th, 1986, when the Challenger, the space shuttle that was being launched into space, exploded. It exploded 73 seconds after taking off, and it killed all seven of its crew members. Among the crew members, five were NASA astronauts, one was a payload specialist, and one was a civilian schoolteacher.
The explosion happened over the Atlantic Ocean, right off the coast of Cape Canaveral in Florida. The reason it happened was because of a joint in the rocket booster of the shuttle. The joint failed during liftoff, and it caused a breach in the shuttle, which allowed the burning gas from the engines to reach the outside of the shuttle.
Eventually, the majority of the shuttle, including the crew compartment, was recovered from the ocean. It is unknown when precisely, the crew members died. Since the shuttle had no escape system, it was impossible for anyone that may have survived the blast to jump out, and the impact with the ocean surface could not be survived. After the disaster, the U.S. space program was put on a hiatus, and a special commission was formed to investigate the accident. Because it was broadcast on live television and witnessed by a large number of American citizens, this disaster is considered to be one of the most critical moments in recent American history. Here are some of the reasons why it is so historical.
10. The Debris Of the Crash
Visitors can see the debris of the explosion of the Kennedy Space Center. It is an exhibit called “Forever Remembered” that was first opened in 2015. Despite all the time that passed since the accident, this serves as an essential reminder of the dangers of space travel, while also showing us how brave people that embark on this journey can be. It is a famous monument to the invincibility of the human spirit and the desire to learn and know more.
9. The Challenger Center for Space Science Education
The members of the victims’ families founded this program as a way to educate future astronauts on the dangers but also the beauties of their travels. It is an educational program that is designed to bring students on simulated space missions. It is a wonderful legacy, that may influence more young people to embark on the journey of becoming astronauts, while also reminding them of how dangerous it can be. It is surely a way to improve how space exploration functions.
8. NASA Day Of Remembrance
Every January, NASA pays its respects to the crew of the Challenger as well as other crews that were lost in space during various space programs. On that day, NASA pauses to remember all the victims lost during man’s desire to explore outer space.
7. The Future Of Civilians In Space
After the accident, plans to fly civilians into space were also shelved indefinitely. This hiatus lasted for quite some time, 22 years, to be exact. The next civilian that flew into outer space was Barbara Morgan in 2007. Interestingly, she was McAuliffe’s backup during the launch of the Challenger, and she boarded the space shuttle Endeavour in 2007 during its successful launch.
6. The Problems In NASA
This accident served as a way to pinpoint problems that were prevalent in NASA’s space program. It brought to light problems such as the failure to report all of the issues to the team that was tasked with the launching decision. Another problem found out by the Rogers Commission was that the flight rate of the shuttle could not have been sustained, due to the size of its workforce.
5. The Hiatus Of the Space Program
After the accident, the space program was put on an indefinite hiatus. NASA did not send astronauts into space for a little over the next two years. Its scientists and experts also redesigned the space shuttle and the majority of its features. The next big launch was the Discovery shuttle in 1988, and it was successful. The Challenger accident made NASA more careful in its future endeavors, that’s for sure!
4. The Rogers Commission
The President of the United States at the time was Ronald Reagan, and he appointed a special task force right after the accident to determine exactly what happened. The task force was called the Rogers Commission, and it included former astronaut Neil Armstrong and test pilot Chuck Yeager. The investigation quickly determined the reason for the disaster.
3. The Space Shuttle Program
Challenger was NASA’s second space shuttle, after Columbia. Columbia successfully returned to Earth, so the expectations of the Challenger were large. Challenger made a total of nine voyages into space prior to the accident, so there was little reason to expect something to go wrong. The crew, including the civilian teacher, underwent extensive training, and nothing seemed like it could end up badly for them.
2. The Media Coverage
While it is to be expected that media outlets would cover an event of this magnitude, it happened extremely fast with the Challenger explosion. Perhaps it was because of a combination of factors that included the live broadcast and the presence of a high school teacher that made the accident even more tragic. It is estimated that 85 percent of Americans have heard about the accident within the first hour of it happening.
1. The Presence Of A Civilian
Christa Mcauliffe was a high school teacher, and she was supposed to be the first teacher ever to reach space. Because of this, many people tuned in to watch the live broadcast of the launch, which made the accident itself much more impactful. People witnessed this horrifying incident almost first hand, which was forever engraved in their memories. It was undoubtedly a moment most would not forget easily.