January 28th 1986: Challenger Disaster
On this day in 1986, the US space shuttle Challenger exploded 73 seconds into its tenth flight, resulting in the deaths of all seven crew members. The craft disintegrated over the Atlantic Ocean due to technical malfunction. The crew compartment and various fragments were recovered from the ocean floor, and several of the crew are known to have survived the initial breakup and died upon impact with the ocean surface. The tragedy occurred the same day as President Ronald Reagan was due to give his annual State of the Union address, but he postponed the speech and instead gave a national address on the Challenger disaster. Reagan quoted the poem ‘High Flight’ by American Second World War pilot John Gillespie Magee Jr in a speech which is still regarded as one of his most memorable.
“We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for their journey and waved goodbye and ‘slipped the surly bonds of Earth’ to 'touch the face of God.’”
30 years ago