View Full Version : Challenger: 25 years later, a still painful wound

01-28-2011, 06:28 AM

For many, no single word evokes as much pain.


A quarter-century later, images of the exploding space shuttle still signify all that can go wrong with technology and the sharpest minds. The accident on Jan. 28, 1986 a scant 73 seconds into flight, nine miles above the Atlantic for all to see remains NASA's most visible failure.

It was the world's first high-tech catastrophe to unfold on live TV. Adding to the anguish was the young audience: School children everywhere tuned in that morning to watch the launch of the first schoolteacher and ordinary citizen bound for space, Christa McAuliffe.

She never made it.

McAuliffe and six others on board perished as the cameras rolled, victims of stiff O-ring seals and feeble bureaucratic decisions.

It was, as one grief and trauma expert recalls, "the beginning of the age when the whole world knew what happened as it happened."

"That was kind of our pilot study for all the rest to come, I think. It was so ghastly," said Sally Karioth, a professor in Florida State University's school of nursing.

The crew compartment shot out of the fireball, intact, and continued upward another three miles before plummeting. The free fall lasted more than two minutes. There was no parachute to slow the descent, no escape system whatsoever; NASA had skipped all that in shuttle development. Space travel was considered so ordinary, in fact, that the Challenger seven wore little more than blue coveralls and skimpy motorcycle-type helmets for takeoff.

In a horrific flash, the most diverse space crew ever including one black, one Japanese-American and two women, one of them a Jew was gone. The name of NASA's second oldest shuttle was forever locked in a where-were-you moment.


Molon Labe
01-28-2011, 09:26 AM
thanks for posting this. I remember it like yesterday. Two years ago, a doctor released the only other footage of the break up.

First vids a tribute and the 2nd vids the Doctor's video



01-28-2011, 10:45 AM
And now the words of a real President, not the empty words of an empty suit like the one we have now...


01-28-2011, 10:51 AM
I watched it at a shop where we made many of the components for the shuttle, It was an awful feeling for awhile not knowing what caused the crash. later it became clear it had nothing to do with the parts we made.

01-28-2011, 02:13 PM
I watched it at the agency I was doing my field work through in Kalamazoo. I remember people there speculating that it was terrorism.

My grandpa is an engineer, mostly in the automotive field, but he did invent the Camlock ratchet wrench. He always followed the space program, would get hold of any type of scientific plans for it that were available to the public, because he had once contributed his wrench to NASA in the 50s (if they were even NASA yet at that point). Werner von Braun was so impressed he came to Detroit to meet my grandpa and tour his shop. Grandpa has a photo album of the event, plus there was a photo of them shaking hands in the Detroit papers.

Anyways, when the Challenger blew up, my Grandpa immediately came to the conclusion that the O rings were the problem, before the investigation was even started. I told him then that even though he was retired, NASA should hire him as a troubleshooter or consultant.

I keep trying to get Grandpa to post here, but he is more into getting info online than meeting people.

01-28-2011, 02:54 PM
I remember it vividly. I saw the leaking seal on the replays, pointed them out to my inlaws, and wondered why it took so long for NASA to realize it was the source of the problem. Being in a similar industry I realize now why it took so long.

01-28-2011, 05:53 PM
I was a month shy of 3 when that happened. My mom told me I made us watch the first launch after the Challenger accident.

I do remember Columbia accident, another bureaucratic nightmare that caused that one too

01-28-2011, 06:41 PM
I was actually out getting tires for my dad's car when it happened but I do remember watching Reagan's speech and it making me cry. Me, a 20 year old full of piss and vinegar getting choked up by the president's speech.

01-28-2011, 07:34 PM
I think I actually was a first grader when I watched first graders watch their teacher die in the air. Awful. :(

01-28-2011, 07:52 PM
I was in Kindergarten.


Bubba Dawg
01-28-2011, 09:02 PM
I was at work. We set up a TV in a common area so people could watch the coverage. We lived in jacksonville at teh time.

Miz Bubba was watching from her office building. (Yes, you could see it from Jax but it was small it was so far away.)

01-28-2011, 10:39 PM
I was 6.

Actually, my parents were in the hospital because my sister (who turns 25 on Monday) was about to be born early, and they had left me with friends.

Just awful.