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Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster

History >> US History 1900 to Present

Space Shuttle Challenger during launch
Source: NASA
On January 28, 1986, the Space Shuttle Challenger broke apart during take-off. All of the seven crewmembers died in the accident including a schoolteacher from New Hampshire named Christa McAuliffe.

What is a Space Shuttle?

The Space Shuttle was the world's first reusable manned spacecraft. It was launched with the help of rocket boosters that would detach during flight. Once in orbit, astronauts and scientists aboard the Space Shuttle would perform experiments, launch satellites, and work on the International Space Station. When landing, the Space Shuttle would glide to a runway landing. The last Space Shuttle flight took place in 2011.

The Challenger Before the Disaster

Before the disaster, the Challenger had flown 9 successful missions starting in 1983. Most of the missions lasted around one week. The first American woman in space, Sally Ride, as well as the first African-American in space, Guion Bluford, both flew their historic flights aboard the Space Shuttle Challenger.

The Launch

After several delays, the Challenger was set to take off on the morning of January 28, 1986. It was a cold morning and much of the shuttle was covered with ice. By 11:00 a.m., NASA engineers had determined that the ice had melted and the Challenger could launch.

The countdown to lift off commenced and at 11:39 a.m., the Challenger took off. At first, everything seemed fine. The Challenger launched into the sky and was gaining speed. However, at 50,800 feet, something went wrong. The Challenger broke apart in flight taking with it the lives of the seven astronauts.

What Caused the Disaster

The disaster was investigated by a commission appointed by President Ronald Reagan. They discovered that a part called an "O-ring" seal on the rocket booster had failed largely due to the cold temperatures.

Photo of seven Challenger crew members
Space Shuttle Challenger Crew. Photo by NASA
The Crew Aftermath

For the next two years, NASA halted all space shuttle flights. Many of the parts were redesigned for added safety. Also, new procedures were put into place to insure this wouldn't happen again.

Interesting Facts About the Space Shuttle Challenger Activities

Works Cited

History >> US History 1900 to Present

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