Space Shuttle Challenger

Do you remember where you were on January 28, 1986?  That day will forever be etched in millions of people;s minds and hearts forever.  It was the day the space shuttle Challenger exploded just miles above the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla.  Any explosion like this would cause a measurable amount of grief and horror, but THIS mission, THIS crew, brought us, as a nation, to our knees. 

This mission was so important as it was the first one to include a civilian in it’s crew.  Not only was that significant, but this crew was the most diverse crew that NASA had created to date.   A wonderful “melting pot” of different cultures, backgrounds, and different religions.    One name that seems to pop in the minds when thinking of this disaster is  Christa McAuliffe. 

McAuliffe was a 37 year old, history teacher from Concord N.H.   Before the flight that day, she said,”Imagine a history teacher making history.”  She was the first civilian to go on a NASA mission. The whole country was excited as they watched  this teacher and her fellow 6 crew members head towards the space shuttle to board it on January 28th.

The country believed that NASA was infallible. No major disaster had happened up to this point.  People everywhere were glued to their televisions to watch this this lift off with no fear of disaster.  Even schools allowed all their classes to watch this historical takeoff.  

At 11:28, January 28, 1986, the space shuttle Challenger blasted off. The shuttle was only nine miles above the Atlantic as the commander, Francis “Dick” Scobee, said the only words any one would ever hear from the shuttle, “Go at throttle up.”  Seventy-three seconds after take off, the Challenger exploded. 

Dick Scobee the commander of the Challenger

Michael J Smith the pilot of the Challenger

Ellison Onizuka was an Japanese American astronaut who had flown into space on the space shuttle Discovery, he was the first Asian American into space.

Judith Resnik, an engineer and second person of Jewish hertitage and second American woman to go in space.

Ronald McNair, a physicists and second African American to go in space.

Gregory Jarvis an engineer and payload specialist.

Christa McAuliffe a history teacher from Concord N.H.

This extraordinary group of people, were the first shuttle crew to die on the  job. Families were in shock as they watched parts of the shuttle falling back to earth.  A nation was in mourning as they also watched the unthinkable happen.   

NASA refused to share information but after much pressure from the public demanding answers, concluded that booster rockets and freezing launch weather were to blame   President Ronald Regan’s tribute to the seven touched many hearts:

“The crew of the space shuttle Challenger honored us by the manner in which they lived their lives.  We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for the journey and waved good-bye and ‘slipped the surly bonds of Earth’ to ‘touch the face of God’. “