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Challenger Shuttle Crew's Death

Challenger Shuttle Crew

The deaths of the Challenger Shuttle Crew:

Not since the tragic fire that killed the three member crew of Apollo One had Americans received such a rude jolt and shock from its space program.

After being delayed for nearly a week because of bad weather, the seven member crew of the Space Shuttle Challenger was lifting off under bright blue, but unusually chilly Florida skies, with a forecast around 31 degrees, the minimum launch temperature…

Challenger Shuttle about to lift off

…on a mission featured the first school teacher being sent into space.

Challenger Shuttle crew before taking off

But little more than a minute into the mission, there's was a disastrous misfiring and their craft exploded in mid-air.

Like those who witnessed it…

people reacting as the shuttle explodes

…the nation was shocked.

That night, President Ronald Reagan suspended his scheduled State of the Union Address to talk to Americans about the day's disaster.

Adding to the tragedy, it was later learned that several of the crew members survived the initial blast, and were alive and briefly conscious, some of them deploying rescue gear - only to die shortly later when the crippled shuttle crashed into the ocean at over 200 mph.

It was noted in various press reports.

newspaper reports of the challenger disaaster newspaper reports of the challenger disaaster newspaper reports of the challenger disaaster

The shuttle program was suspended for over two and a half years while the Rogers Commission appointed by the President probed the accident. The investigation into the explosion revealed that an o-ring seal in the right solid rocket booster failed, allowing hot pressurized gas to escape, leading to a catastrophic structural failure.

The Commission criticized NASA, saying it was aware of potential design flaws but didn't properly follow up. It also concluded that NASA disregarded warnings from engineers about launching in that morning's relatively low temperatures. It had dipped below freezing 28-29 degrees.

The identifiable remains of the crew were returned to their grieving families roughly three months after the accident, on April 29th. Unidentified crew remains were buried together at the "Space Shuttle Challenger Memorial "at Arlington National Cemetery, near the nation's capital, on May 20TH, 1986.

Space Shuttle Challenger Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery
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