NASA’s space shuttle Challenger remembered 30 years after disaster

NASA’s space shuttle Challenger remembered 30 years after disaster

This Thursday marks 30 years since NASA’s space shuttle Challenger, with seven crew members onboard, exploded just 73 seconds it lifted off.

Following several delays, the Challenger (mission STS-51L), blasted off at 11:38 a.m. on Jan. 28, 1986. Heading into a brilliant blue Florida sky, the shuttle was 73 seconds into the flight, when supervisors witnessed a flame moving up the side of the external fuel tank, and then they saw an explosion in the tank. The explosion ripped apart the tank and other contents of the shuttle, which spun wildly out of the sky.

The craft was nearly 46,000 feet in the air when the explosion occurred. It continued its upward trajectory, and reached 65,000 feet above Earth’s surface before quickly torn apart. Then, the pieces started falling back to Earth, hitting the Atlantic Ocean some 2 minutes and 45 seconds after the disintegration.

Seconds later it was obvious that something happened that wasn’t supposed to happen. All seven crew members were killed in the accident. Alerting those listening to the tragedy, NASA commentator Steve Nesbitt said, “Flight controllers here are looking very carefully at the situation obviously a major malfunction.”

The seven victims included a civilian, viz. Christa McAuliffe, a New Hampshire high school teacher who had been selected to go into space and teach lessons from there. Other victims were: the space ship’s commander Dick Scobee, pilot Michael, satellite engineer Gregory Jarvis, engineers Judith Resnik and Ellison Onizuka, and physicist Ronald McNair.

Investigators concluded that a leak in the solid rocket booster resulted in escape of heated gas, which burnt through the external tank. Many blamed Florida’s cold weather that day, saying the rings that helped seal the fuel tank’s joints couldn’t endure the chilly weather.