NASA will mark the 30th anniversary of the fatal Challenger launch that killed seven astronauts with a day of Remembrance today.
The disaster haunts the American psyche much like the assassination of JFK and the terror attacks of September 11th.
Before liftoff, mission engineers warned that they had seen evidence that the ship’s o-rings, which sealed the joints of the rocket boosters, could potentially fail, but mission control chose to ignore the warning and the Challenger launched at around 11:30 a.m. from Cape Canaveral.
Seventy-three seconds after liftoff, the external fuel tank of NASA’s shuttle orbiter collapsed in on itself, creating a deadly mixture of liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen propellants, resulting in a fireball that ultimately led to the destruction of the ship and the deaths of all seven astronauts on board. Experts believe that the crew, which included teacher Christa McAuliffe, who was slated to teach lessons to kids from space, died instantly. The remnants of the ship crashed into the Atlantic ocean at over 200 miles per hour.
Shuttle program shelved
After the launch, NASA did not send another shuttle to space for two years while it revamped the design of the shuttle, with launches resuming in 1988.
The Challenger was the second space shuttle in NASA’s service and was unveiled in 1983. The doomed mission would have been its 10th voyage.