The explosion occurred 73 seconds after liftoff.
CNN was the only national news station to broadcast the mission live. Approximately 17 percent of Americans witnessed the launch live, while 85 percent of Americans heard of the news within 1 hour of the event. According to a study, only 2 other times in history up to that point had news of an event spread so quickly – the first being the announcement of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination in 1963, the second being news spread among students at Kent State regarding the news of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s death in 1945.
It has been estimated at the time that nearly 48 percent of 9-13-year-olds witnessed the event in their classrooms, as teacher Christa McAuliffe was aboard the flight.
The 25th Space Shuttle mission altered the history of manned space exploration and represented the first loss of an American crew during a space mission (Apollo 1 was during a training exercise).
McAuliffe was slated to be the first participant in the Teacher in Space Program. As her maximum altitude was ~65,000 feet (12.31 miles), she never made it into space. That title was given to Barbara Morgan of STS-118 aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour in August 2007, 22-1/2 years after the Challenger Disaster. Morgan served as McAuliffe’s backup during STS-51-L. As Morgan is now part of the Educator in Space Program, she will be credited as the first “educator” in space, to distinguish her from McAuliffe.
Aboard Challenger during STS-51-L:
Francis “Dick” Scobee (Commander)
Michael Smith (Pilot)
Judith Resnik (Mission Specialist)
Ellison Onizuka (Mission Specialist)
Ronald McNair (Mission Specialist)
Gregory Jarvis (Payload Specialist)
Sharon Christa McAuliffe (Payload Specialist – Teacher in Space)
If you were alive then, do you remember where you were when news of this tragedy first broke?
Let us know in the comments section below.
- 28 Years Later: Space Shuttle Challenger Photos You’ve Never Seen (fox17online.com)
- 28 Years Ago: Remembering The Challenger Disaster (miami.cbslocal.com)
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