The Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster 36 years ago

Where were you when you heard the news?
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JOPLIN, Mo. — January 28, 1986, 36 years ago today, the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster occurred killing all seven crew members. 

Most of America was watching that day, including children, who witnessed the disaster. After an extensive national search the first civilian teacher in space, Christa McAuliffe, was on board. Thus a generation, waiting to be inspired, was watching from their classrooms.

The rest of America watched on television live as the space shuttle disintegrated 73 seconds into flight.

NASA, PUBLIC DOMAIN

Space Shuttle Challenger explosion. NASA, public domain.

McAuliffe was chosen as the first educator for the Teacher in Space Project (TISP).  The  NASA program was announced by Ronald Reagan in 1984 designed to inspire students, honor teachers, and spur interest in mathematics, science, and space exploration.

The project would carry teachers into space as non-astronaut civilians who would return to their classrooms to share the experience with their students.

The disaster was caused by the failure of O-ring seals in a joint in the Space Shuttle’s right solid rocket booster.

Family members of the crew witnessed the disaster following the takeoff which was visible from the ground. The audience gathered was horrified and confused at what they had just witnessed. Command stated over the public address system saying, “We are looking at the situation, obviously a major malfunction.”

Space Shuttle Challenger crew, NASA, public domain

Space Shuttle Challenger crew, NASA, public domain

Commander Francis R. “Dick” Scobee, Pilot Michael J. Smith, Mission Specialists Ellison S. Onizuka, Judith A. Resnik and Ronald E. McNair, and Payload Specialists Gregory B. Jarvis and S. Christa McAuliffe died.

President Ronald Reagan spoke at the Challenger Memorial Service at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, January 31, 1986.

We remember Christa McAuliffe, who captured the imagination of the entire Nation; inspiring us with her pluck, her restless spirit of discovery; a teacher, not just to her students but to an entire people, instilling us all with the excitement of this journey we ride into the future.” — President Ronald Reagan

NASA logo of the abandoned Teacher in Space Project (TISP). 

Logo of the abandoned Teacher in Space Project (TISP).  The  NASA program was announced by Ronald Reagan in 1984 designed to inspire students, honor teachers, and spur interest in mathematics, science, and space exploration.