Tuesday, January 28, 2014



Cape Canaveral (JFK+50) Twenty-eight years ago today, January 28, 1986,  the space shuttle Challenger broke apart in a cloud of fire and smoke just 73 seconds after liftoff and resulting in the deaths of all seven crew members.  

The Challenger crew included...

Dick Scobee, commander
Michael Smith, pilot 
Gregory Jarvis
Ellison Onizuka
Christa McAuliffe
Ronald McNair
Judy Resnick

Challenger Crew
NASA Photo

Christa McAuliffe, a 37 year old high school social studies teacher from New Hampshire, had been selected to be the first civilian to travel in space.

President Ronald Reagan cancelled his State of the Union message and instead spoke to a shocked nation and the world.  

The President said with sadness...

"We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning as 'they prepared for their journey, waved goodbye and 'slipped the surly bonds of earth 'to touch the face of God'."

Challenger Crew walks to launchpad
January 28, 1986
NASA Photo

An investigation later finds a failure in the "O" ring seal in one of two solid fuel rockets.   It also will conclude the unusually cold temperatures at the Cape at the time of launch contributed to the tragedy.

Challenger Lift Off
January 28, 1986
NASA Photo

For more information on the Challenger tragedy, JFK+50 recommends "7 myths about the Challenger shuttle disaster" by James Oberg at:  

James Oberg writes...

"The shuttle did not explode and the flight did not end at 73 seconds into launch.  Challenger was torn apart from the boosters which continued to climb. 

Pieces (of the Challenger climbed) to 65,000 feet and then arched back into the water.  The cabin hit the surface 2 minutes and 45 seconds after break up..."

Challenger Tragedy
January 28, 1986
NASA Photo

Mr. Oberg adds that "few people actually saw the launch" live on television. 

It was being broadcast on CNN but not on the other major networks. 

JFK+50 was watching CNN at home that morning because school was cancelled due to snow.  

I remember being puzzled by the flame coming from the shuttle in a place where I had never seen it before and then came the fireball.  

I remember it being so odd that the NASA Communicator continued to read data as if nothing had happened.  Then, at one point, he said...

"obviously a major malfunction".