This past January 28th marked the anniversary of the space shuttle Challenger explosion in 1986 that killed seven crew members 73 seconds after launching.
The crew included Christa McAuliffe, a high school teacher from New Hampshire, who was supposed to be the first teacher in space as a payload specialist. The rest of the crew were 5 NASA astronauts, mission specialists Ellison S. Onizuka, Ronald E. McNair, and Judith A. Resnik, pilot Mike J. Smith, mission commander Francis R. Scobee, and the payload specialist Gregory Jarvis.
Challenger launched from the Kennedy Space Center near Cape Canaveral, Florida, while many people, including schoolchildren, watched the shuttle from the ground. Millions of Americans watched the event on television.
NASA reported that a booster engine broke apart quickly after the launch. A little over a minute, Challenger exploded in midair.
It was the first time a NASA astronaut was killed during a flight. It was unclear if the entire crew died from the explosion or some members died after the shuttle fell to the ground.
President Ronald Reagan expressed condolences of the families involved, reflecting on the America’s space exploration:
We’ve grown used to the idea of space, and perhaps we forget that we’ve only just begun. We’re still pioneers. They, the members of the Challenger crew, were pioneers.
He reminded the schoolchildren who witnessed the disaster that tragedy is sometimes a part of the process of learning new things and expanding our horizons.
The future doesn’t belong to the faint-hearted. It belongs to the brave. The Challenger crew was pulling us into the future, and we’ll continue to follow them.
January 28th is more than just one sad anniversary for NASA. The Day of Remembrance is also for the three people killed in the Apollo 1 fire on January 27, 1967, and the seven killed in the Columbia accidents on February 1, 2003.
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