On This Day in History: January 28th, 1986 - Space Shuttle "Challenger" Explodes Just After Liftoff!
Posted: 01/28/2012 13:49 by herodotusComments: 7
At 11:38 a.m. EST, on January 28, 1986, the space shuttle Challenger lifts off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, and Christa McAuliffe is on her way to becoming the first ordinary U.S. civilian to travel into space. McAuliffe, a 37-year-old high school social studies teacher from New Hampshire, won a competition that earned her a place among the seven-member crew of the Challenger. She underwent months of shuttle training but then, beginning January 23, was forced to wait six long days as the Challenger's launch countdown was repeatedly delayed because of weather and technical problems. Finally, on January 28, the shuttle lifted off.

Seventy-three seconds later, hundreds on the ground, including Christa's family, stared in disbelief as the shuttle exploded in a forking plume of smoke and fire. Millions more watched the wrenching tragedy unfold on live television. There were no survivors.

In 1976, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) unveiled the world's first reusable manned spacecraft, the Enterprise. Five years later, space flights of the shuttle began when Columbia traveled into space on a 54-hour mission. Launched by two solid-rocket boosters and an external tank, only the aircraft-like shuttle entered into orbit around Earth. When the mission was completed, the shuttle fired engines to reduce speed and, after descending through the atmosphere, landed like a glider. Early shuttles took satellite equipment into space and carried out various scientific experiments. The Challenger disaster was the first major shuttle accident.

In the aftermath of the explosion, President Ronald Reagan appointed a special commission to determine what went wrong with Challenger and to develop future corrective measures. The presidential commission was headed by former secretary of state William Rogers, and included former astronaut Neil Armstrong and former test pilot Chuck Yeager. The investigation determined that the explosion was caused by the failure of an "O-ring" seal in one of the two solid-fuel rockets. The elastic O-ring did not respond as expected because of the cold temperature at launch time, which began a chain of events that resulted in the massive explosion. As a result of the explosion, NASA did not send astronauts into space for more than two years as it redesigned a number of features of the space shuttle.

In September 1988, space shuttle flights resumed with the successful launching of the Discovery. Since then, the space shuttle has carried out numerous important missions, such as the repair and maintenance of the Hubble Space Telescope and the construction of the International Space Station.

On February 1, 2003, a second space-shuttle disaster rocked the United States when Columbia disintegrated upon reentry of the Earth's atmosphere. All aboard were killed. Despite fears that the problems that downed Columbia had not been satisfactorily addressed, space-shuttle flights resumed on July 26, 2005, when Discovery was again put into orbit.

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By SirRoderick (SI Elite) on 01/29/2012 04:44
A dark day that one. I do wonder if we're ever going to get serious again about space missions. Mars is just sitting there, taunting us!

And I'd really rather the Chinese didn't do it first.
By herodotus (SI Herodotus) on 01/29/2012 15:36
I was watching the launch LIVE here, and was as baffled as the commentators were as to what had occurred/was occurring.
As to the future of Space Explorations, it's really all conjecture at the moment. Immediate space ventures will be run by Private companies in the near future (such as Virgin) but as to long distance travel I don't see NASA really being the a big part of it. Really, the Agency's time has passed into history.
By SirRoderick (SI Elite) on 01/29/2012 16:24
Well the problem with private enterprise is that they'll not be leaning towards taking risks akin to going to Mars. Things that may further our understanding of the universe, but don't have great or at least no forseeable potential profits.

You NEED a driving force like American nationalism to spend such huge sums on something that, for the average joe, is really only for prestige value.

This is why I see the Chinese doing it. Assuming that nothing catastrofic happens to them, they will now have a window in which they will have both the economical and scientific ability as well as the motivation to push for Mars. They want to assert their nation as a superpower and going to Mars would give them exactly the same boost in national pride and prestige that the US was looking for with the moon.

By hunter612 (SI Core) on 01/29/2012 17:28
All in all we can expect a war in outer-space in the near future. Space tourism, space terrorism and space nationalism, they'll all be there. As Roderick said, China will probably kick off the race to Mars. Question of time perhaps?
By herodotus (SI Herodotus) on 01/29/2012 17:32
I agree about the Private companies - that's why I called them ventures, rather than actual space exploration. The US does not have that drive they used, pitting themselves against the USSR in the Space Race (that was Cold War induced), but the Chinese do have the Nationalistic fervor to pursue it. The US has once more become more isolationist, not nearly as extreme as during the 1930's but still there. Once all troops have returned from these high investment-low return wars they are involved in (just one now) there will be a return to inward focus on re-building rather than looking to the stars.
Europe is out of the equation, with Greece looking to declare bankruptcy more and more each day and the Euro in troubled waters.
The Sci Fi vision of a world run by Private Corporations doesn't look that far-fetched anymore. Just think of a spaceship travelling to Mars with McDonald's printed along the fuselage:)
By SirRoderick (SI Elite) on 01/29/2012 17:39
"We have arrived in Google Space Port, thank you for choosing Exxon Mobil Space Travel, have a nice day."


If that's what it takes, I'll do it.
By herodotus (SI Herodotus) on 01/29/2012 17:49
As long as you Twitter head with your Flight Plan, I'm sure it won't be a problem...unless they've censored your Region that is.
Space carved into Sectors owned by different corporations - that makes me shiver.