There are certain events that so rip away our illusion of invulnerability that the moment is burned into
our memories and replayed in our minds for the remainder of our lives. For some, it was the bombing of
Pearl Harbor. For others, the assassination of John F. Kennedy. But for the millions of people watching
from their classrooms, their living rooms, the stands at the launch pad, or the monitors in mission control --
the image is of the fireball and the two spiraling trails in the sky. In that one instant, shortly after 11:40 a.m.
EST on January 28, 1986, a nation to whom spaceflight had become routine was drastically humbled.
The explosion of the space shuttle
Challenger, 73 seconds after
liftoff, claimed the lives of all seven crew
members: Michael Smith, Francis Scobee, Judith Resnik, Ronald McNair, Ellison Onizuka, Gregory Jarvis,
and First-Teacher-in-Space Christa McAuliffe. The tragedy was the worst incident involving a U.S.
spacecraft since the 1967 Apollo-1 capsule fire that killed three astronauts on the ground.
Since the begining of the space shuttle program,
space flight had become so flawless and routine that
most people would not have been watching that particular liftoff had it not been for Christa. America's
attention was captured because the flight was to be the culmination of a two-year project to send a school
teacher into space. We all shared in the excitement as Christa McAuliffe was selected from over 11,000
candidates, we all watched her as she took part in training and preparation for the flight, and we were all
watching as she boarded the Challenger and lifted off with the intention of broadcasting educational lessons
The tragic loss of these fine pioneers should be remembered for though the accident taught us that we
should not be complacent, we also should carry on the dream that these seven had and continue the quest
to expand our understanding of this universe in which we live.
The '80s Server extends its warmest sympathies to the families and friends of the Challenger crew.
A wealth of additional information can be found at NASA's Challenger, STS-51L Information web site.