Friday, January 28, 2011

Remembering Challenger...25 Years Later

Official Insignia for this mission - STS-51-L.

Twenty-five years ago today, January 28, 1986, we watched in horror and rapt fascination as the Spaceshuttle Challenger lifted off into the clear blue sky and promptly blew itself up into columns of smoke.

All seven crew members were lost when it exploded a scant 73 seconds after launch. Included was the first teacher to go into space, Christa McAuliffe, making this a particularly tragic moment as her entire school was watching and cheering her on.

STS-51-L crew: (front row) Michael J. Smith,
Dick Scobee, Ronald McNair;
(back row) Ellison Onizuka, Christa McAuliffe,
Gregory Jarvis, Judith Resnik.

Challenger liftoff

The Challenger Spaceshuttle was officially commissioned on April 4, 1983, when it made its maiden flight. It had flown successfully nine times before and this would have been it tenth mission. In the years 1983 and 1984, Challenger flew 85% of all Space Shuttle missions becoming known as NASA's workhorse.

The unforgettable explosion

It's hard to believe that this now iconic image is 25 years old. The official cause of the explosion was an O-ring failure. Ominously, this mission was delayed over seven times and for a period of days, as one thing after another went wrong. Bad weather, problems with a hatch, delays with a previous spaceshuttle name it and it cropped up and put Challenger on delay day after day.

The Challenger memorial at Arlington National Cemetery

"In 1986, the film Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home was dedicated to the memory of Challenger: "The cast and crew of Star Trek wish to dedicate this film to the men and women of the spaceship Challenger whose courageous spirit shall live to the 23rd century and beyond... " "

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