space shuttle challenger disaster

Judith Resnik

(1949–1986) Engineer and astronaut

Judith Resnik was the second American woman in space, and the first Jewish American. She received her PhD in electrical engineering from Carnegie Mellon University. She was recruited for the space program while at Xerox Corp. by NASA recruiter, actress Nichelle Nichols. Resnik died during the launch of the Space Shuttle Challenger. The IEEE grants an award for space engineering in her name.

Number 152 in an ongoing series celebrating remarkable women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

Black history month day 28: American astronaut Mae Jemison.

Mae Carol Jemison was born on October 17, 1956 in Decatur, Alabama. When she was three years old, her family moved to Chicago, Illinois for better employment and education opportunities. Jemison was always interested in science and dreamed of going to space from a young age. Once when she was little a splinter infected her thumb. Her teacher mother turned it into a learning experience and she ended up doing a whole project about pus.

While Jemison’s parents were always very supportive of her scientific interests, her teachers were not. Jemison once recalled: “In kindergarten, my teacher asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, and I told her a scientist. She said, ‘Don’t you mean a nurse?’ Now, there’s nothing wrong with being a nurse, but that’s not what I wanted to be.”

Jemison went to Stanford University when she was just 16 and graduated with a B.S. in chemical engineering. She received her doctor of medicine degree at Cornell Medical College in 1981. During medical school she traveled to Cuba, Kenya and Thailand, to provide primary medical care to people living there.

Jemison first applied for the space program in 1983 after the flight of Sally Ride. The program was delayed after the space shuttle Challenger disaster in 1986, but she was accepted into the program after reapplying in 1987, one of 15 applicants out of 2000. One of her biggest inspirations for pursuing the space program was African-American actress Nichelle Nichols, better known as Lieutenant Uhura from Star Trek. Later Jemison would go on to guest star in an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, becoming the only actual astronaut to appear on the show.

As a lover of dance, Jemison took a poster from the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater along with her on the flight saying: “Many people do not see a connection between science and dance, but I consider them both to be expressions of the boundless creativity that people have to share with one another. She also took some small art objects from West African countries to symbolize that space belongs to all nations, and a picture of African-American pilot Bessie Coleman.

Jemison is now 60 years old and currently serving as the principle of the 100 Year Starship organization.

I sincerely hope you have enjoyed going on this educational journey with me this month, exploring 28 inspiring figures in black history. It was a lot of fun for me to do research for this project and I learned quite a few things along the way. I really tried to get at least some figures who are less commonly discussed during Black history month. There is a lot of information I didn’t get to cover, so I would strongly encourage you to read up on everybody I’ve mentioned this month because they have some very interesting stories to tell!

January 28th, 1986 - Space Shuttle Challenger explodes and breaks apart 73 seconds into it’s tenth mission, the 25th for the Space Shuttle Program, resulting in the deaths of her seven crew. 

These were Francis R. Scobee, Michael J. Smith, Ronald McNair, Ellison Onizuka, Judith Resnik, Gregory Jarvis, and Christa McAuliffe of the Teacher in Space Program.

As with Apollo 1, Challenger proved that there will always be significant risks to spaceflight, and to those brave enough to risk it all to touch the stars. President Reagan’s speech to a nation in mourning:

“It’s all part of a process of exploration and discovery. It’s all part of taking a chance and expanding man’s horizons. The future doesn’t belong to the fainthearted…it belongs to the brave. The Challenger crew was putting us into the future, and we’ll continue to follow it.” 


Thirty years ago today, at 11:38 a.m. EST, January 28, 1986, the space shuttle Challenger lifts off from Cape Canaveral, Florida. Christa McAuliffe, teacher from New Hampshire, was to be the first ordinary U.S. civilian to travel into space. Challenger‘s launch countdown was repeatedly delayed because of weather and technical problems. Finally, on January 28, the shuttle lifted off.

73 seconds later, hundreds on the ground, including Christa’s family, stared in disbelief as the shuttle exploded in a forking plume of smoke and fire, killing all seven crew members. Millions more watched the heart-wrenching tragedy unfold on live television.

“The future doesn’t belong to the faint-hearted. It belongs to the brave.” President Reagan said. “The Challenger crew was pulling us into the future, and we’ll continue to follow. Nothing ends here; our hopes and our journeys continue.”


Nichelle Nichols (B. 1932)

Born in Robbins, Illinois, Nichols got her start on the stage in 1961 with Oscar Brown's Kicks and Co., a musical satire about Playboy magazine. Ironically, this drew the attention of Hugh Heffner who was so impressed with her, he booked her in his Chicago Playboy Club. While still in Chicago, she performed at the “Blue Angel”, and in New York, Nichols appeared at that city’s Blue Angel as a dancer and singer. She also toured with Duke Ellington and in addition to her acting and singing work, Nichols did some modelling. 

Out of all of her accomplishments, her biggest and arguably most important role was that of Lieutenant Uhura in Star Trek. Through this role, Nichols was the first black woman on a major television series who did not play a servant; the prominent supporting role as a bridge officer was unprecedented. Her groundbreaking work on Star Trek not only inspired such actresses as Whoopie Goldberg (and, in turn, Lupita Nyong'o) to pursue their careers, but also inspired astronaut Mae Jemison who became the first African American woman in space.

After the cancellation of Star Trek, Nichols volunteered her time in a special project with NASA to recruit minority and female personnel for the space agency, which proved to be a success.[16] She began this work by making an affiliation between NASA and a company which she helped to run, Women in Motion.[17][18][19][20][21][22]

Those recruited include Dr. Sally Ride, the first American female astronaut, and United States Air Force Colonel Guion Bluford, the first African-American astronaut, as well as Dr. Judith Resnik and Dr. Ronald McNair, who both flew successful missions during the Space Shuttle program before their deaths in the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster on January 28, 1986. Recruits also included Charles Bolden, the current NASA administrator, and Lori Garver, the current Deputy Administrator. (X)


Ronald Reagan Addressing the Nation from The Oval Office on the Evening After the Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster. January 28th, 1986.


JANUARY 28, 2015

     Today, 29 years ago, the seven souls aboard STS-51-L and Challenger Space Shuttle Orbiter were lost.

Challenger Wreckage Today

     I always said I wanted to photograph all of the Space Shuttle Orbiters. I never thought I’d get the chance to photograph Challenger; but I did, sort of. This is as close as I may ever get to actually doing so.

     The first photo shows Launch Complex 31 and 32 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. At this launch complex, inside two dormant missile silos, rests the wreckage of Space Shuttle Challenger, meticulously sorted and cataloged in its underground tomb. This was as close as I could get to the highly restricted area. On the left side of the first photograph, you can see a beehive shaped block house which housed Launch Control for LC-31 and LC-32. To the right of the photo, there is a smaller, light colored dome, and to the immediate left of it, a slab of dark brown cement protruding from the ground. Those are the caps to the silos that house the Challenger wreckage.

     When I photograph and share an aircraft or spacecraft, I try to attach a corresponding story. I could talk about how or why this disaster unfolded, but this is common knowledge for most people who follow aerospace. Instead, I’m going to share a more personal story. I feel a close connection to Challenger because my father, Bruce Mason, was an applicant in the Teacher in Space Program. If he had been selected, he could have been on the fatal flight. This is an example of what thousands of Teacher in Space applicants and their families went through.

Teacher In Space

     The story starts before I was born. In 1984 Ronald Reagan announced the Teacher in Space Program and my dad, a Georgia public middle school science teacher, applied as soon as he heard about the widely publicized program. Before applying to the Teacher in Space Program, he started the “Target Program”, which offers gifted children accelerated learning in the state of Georgia. Before that, he became the first educator in the state to connect a school computer to the internet.

     To apply, the teachers had to come up with an educational project that they would perform in space and submit a paper about the project along with their applications. My father’s experiment would have demonstrated and proven Newton’s Universal Gravitation Theory using simple machine mechanics in microgravity. It would have been something students could have watched on camera, seeing it work live from space.

     Over 11,000 teachers applied nationwide, but my dad was the only teacher in his school to sign up. Another part of the application process was to get a recommendation from a fellow teacher. When Dad approached a co-worker about the recommendation, she was happy to help, but said that he was crazy. Dad’s school students were in on the project too, and were all very excited about the possibility of their teacher flying in space.

     Months went by and tension grew at home. Mom was excited for Dad, but my sister, who was 12 at the time, begged him not to go, expressing fear that he would die. If I were around at the time, I would have fully supported my dad’s mission. 

     Just before the final 10 applicants were chosen, Dad received a letter saying that somebody else from his region was chosen to move on to the final stage of selection. He was heartbroken at missing the chance to fly in space until he learned about Christa Mcauliffe, the finalist, who was a perfect fit for the position. In his words, Dad said that “Christa was an amazing teacher, and an amazing woman." My father even made plans to attend a teaching convention in San Francisco, where Christa was slated to speak after her spaceflight. She was an English teacher, and her project was to keep a journal during her time in space. This journal would have answered the question that every person has, "What’s it really like up there?”

Challenger Disaster

     January 28, 1986, Dad woke up to an extremely cold morning; so uncharacteristically cold that the county declared a “teacher work day”, where the kids would stay at home for their safety. My sister was sick that day, so Mom stayed at home to take care of her. Before going into work, Dad watched pre-launch news coverage of STS-51-L, which showed footage of enormous icicles hanging from equipment at Launch Complex 39B where Challenger sat ready for flight. Looking at the conditions, he assumed that they would scrub the launch, as they did five times leading up to that day.

     Later, Dad came back from his lunch break at work. He entered the building, walked down a hall and was stopped by a co-worker and family friend named Jackie. Dad tells me that, to this day he remembers the exact spot where he stopped. Jackie began exclaiming that the space shuttle had exploded. Jackie was known as quite a character and Dad thought she was kidding, just making a tasteless joke. The more insistent Jackie got, the more Dad didn’t believe her. The assistant principal, who was in his office nearby, overheard the conversation and interjected, confirming that the shuttle had exploded and that there would be no possible survivors. At that point, my father said that it felt as if a trap door opened up under his feet and he fell through it.

     My mother watched every rocket launch on TV and this flight was no different. Mom watched the whole thing happen from home, on live television. She said, “It went up and it was great. Then it just turned into fireworks and went in all different directions. I couldn’t believe what was happening because NASA is not supposed to do that.” She’d tried to call Dad at school, but these were the days before cell phones and he was out to lunch when it happened.

     Eventually, Dad saw the footage of the launch. Even now, he says that it’s hard for him to watch. Especially the moment when the camera cuts to the horrified face of Frederick Gregory in Launch Control, an astronaut who gave Dad a tour of Kennedy Space Center. Dad knows Frederick as such a glowing, positive person and it was impactful to witness him go through such shock. Later that evening, my family watched president Ronald Reagan’s speech after the accident, feeling as though it was our president’s finest moment. Reagan said, “We mourn seven heroes: Michael Smith, Dick Scobee, Judith Resnik, Ronald McNair, Ellison Onizuka, Gregory Jarvis, and Christa McAuliffe…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.”

     The next day, the students were back at school. All the kids that were in Dad’s class when he applied had moved on to the next grade, but they all managed to find him during the school day and express their shock and condolences.

     Quickly, Dad’s thoughts went to Christa, her family and especially Christa’s students who watched the launch live, all wearing party hats and using noisemakers, cheering their teacher before she was lost. Dad had been able to relate to Christa because she had a daughter at the same age as my sister who also didn’t want her parent to go into space.

     Instead of going to the teaching convention in San Francisco, where Christa would have spoken after her flight, my parents visited Christa’s hometown, where she lived and taught. Later, once I was born, Dad made sure to share Christa’s legacy with me. I can’t remember a time in which I didn’t know who she was and what she did. Ever since the accident, Dad displayed a sign on the wall in his classroom that said “Christa Mcauliffe teaches here too.”

Why Continue?

     Some officials and astronauts express anger or sadness with regards to the Challenger disaster and I understand why. I have similar feelings. But these feelings are ultimately overshadowed by pride for the fact that we pushed on with the shuttle program after each accident. I am confident that humans will never stop adventuring for the sake of science. Exploration is instinctually ingrained in every person. And every person that flies into space, who takes such risk for the betterment of the human race, is a hero, no matter if their flight fails or succeeds.


Google honors Sally Ride

May 26th is the birthday of Sally Ride, who was an American physicist and astronaut. She was the first American woman and the youngest American astronaut to travel space. She also served on the committees that investigated the Challenger and Columbia space shuttle disasters, being the only person to participate on both.

Ride was also the first known LGBT astronaut.

Sally Ride passed away July 23, 2012, at the age of 61.


Nineteen years ago - almost to the day - we lost three astronauts in a terrible accident on the ground. But we’ve never lost an astronaut in flight; we’ve never had a tragedy like this. And perhaps we’ve forgotten the courage it took for the crew of the shuttle; but they, the Challenger Seven, were aware of the dangers, overcame them, and did their jobs brilliantly. We mourn seven heroes: Michael Smith, Dick Scobee, Judith Resnik, Ronald McNair, Ellison Onizuka, Gregory Jarvis, and Christa McAuliffe. We mourn their loss as a nation together. 
For the families of the seven, we cannot bear as you do, the full impact of this tragedy. But we feel the loss, and we’re thinking about you so very much. Your loved ones were daring and brave, and they had that special grace, that spirit that says, "Give me a challenge and I’ll meet it with joy.” They had a hunger to explore the universe and discover its truths. They wished to serve; and they did. They served all of us. 
We’ve grown used to wonders in this century. It’s hard to dazzle us. But for twenty-five years the United States space program has been doing just that. We’ve grown used to the idea of space, and perhaps we forget that we’ve only just begun. We’re still pioneers. They, the members of the Challenger crew, were pioneers. And I want to say something to the schoolchildren of America who were watching the live coverage of the shuttle’s takeoff. I know it is hard to understand, but sometimes painful things like this happen. It’s all part of the process of exploration and discovery. it’s all part of taking a chance and expanding man’s horizons. The future doesn’t belong to the fainthearted; it belongs to the brave. The Challenger crew was pulling us into the future, and we;ll continue to follow them…
There’s a coincidence today. On this day 390 years ago, the great explorer Sir Francis Drake died aboard ship off the coast of Panama. In his lifetime the great frontiers were the oceans, and a historian later said, ‘He lived by the sea, died on it, and was buried in it.’ Well, today we can say of the Challenger crew: Their dedication was, like Drake’s complete.
The crew of the space shuttle Challenger honored us by the manner in which they lived their lives. We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for the journey and waved goodbye and 'slipped the surly bonds of earth’ to 'touch the face of God.’“
– United States President Ronald Reagan’s Speech on The Challenger Disaster; January 28, 1986 (photos by Paul Hildebrandt, director/filmmaker, 'Fight for Space’)

This week, and forever, the crew of Apollo1 AS-204 and Space Shuttle Challenger STS-51-L are remembered and heralded for their achievements in the human spaceflight program. During this time, it’s become routine for many around the space community and amongst our human family on Earth to reflect upon and mourn those relatives of ours who put their lives at risk for the study, protection, and preservation of life on this biologically diverse biosphere we call home. 

However, I can’t help but reflect on the above speech following Challenger’s demise feeling the same sentiments the world did then, while knowing what we know now, and what few were aware of at the time this speech was given. We certainly are explorers, pioneers, as asserted by President Reagan in 1986. But we were involved with an endeavor deserving the best of our energies and skills, as suggested by John F. Kennedy, who initiated this effort.

Apollo 1, Challenger, and Columbia were not accidents, they were (are) examples of human negligence. We 'should’ have taken proper precautions. We 'should’ have and 'could’ have done a lot of things. The United States government was in a competition of superiority - who was going to gain the "high ground” in space - with the Soviet Union. The astronauts involved were not astronauts by definition, they were active/former military pilots – they were soldiers. Their mission, as they chose to accept it, was not to advance a frontier of discovery and human advancement into space with the goal of settlement among new worlds; their mission was to carry out their positions on the front lines of a battle between [U.S.] and them.

Virgil I. “Gus” Grissom, Edward H. White II, and Roger B. Chaffee of Apollo 1 burned alive inside a crammed Command/Service Module – a mock space capsule riddled with mechanical failures, faulty equipment, and ultimately, an extremely dangerous environment overall to even be considered the testing platform for any human to operate with confidence. Seconds before the fire, “Gus” Grissom, exhausted and frustrated, is recorded saying: 

“How are we going to get to the moon if we can’t talk between three buildings?

Watch: 'From The Earth To The Moon’ film about the developing Apollo program of the 60’s and 70’s (view Apollo fire scene)

The 'Challenger Seven’ crew perished 73 seconds into its flight not due to an “accident”, but mismanagement and leadership. The Space Shuttle itself was an extremely sensitive and dangerous vehicle to haul into space. Built for access into Low Earth Orbit only, it was critical that all precautions were taken, as meticulous subsystems on board were necessary for full reliability and service from launch to landing. However, instead of equipment or infrastructure at fault, it was that of the directors responsible for moving forward with the mission itself. 

The day NASA was pressed to launch, temperatures that morning were well below what were suggested by the manufacturer/contractor of the rubber O rings responsible as a seal between the joints of the Solid Rocket Boosters (SRB) that contained the external fuel source, thus the breach and explosion.

A critical figure in the investigation leading up to and beyond the disaster was science communicator and notable physicist Richard P. Feynman, who submitted the most sober assessment of all those involved (and responsible) in one sentence:

For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for Nature cannot be fooled.

NASA was being pressed and pushed by non-scientists to not delay another launch date, which would draw critique and cost-assessment from Congress and negative press from the media, who grew consistently tired and irritated of assembling their crews to attend launches only to be let down due to some technical information pertinent to a higher percentage of mission success, resulting in grumpy communication to the press, who continually lacked true insight into how this inspirational and massive space program was being coordinated behind closed doors. 

Watch: 'The Challenger Disaster’ television film about Richard Feynman’s role in the investigation process, bringing the administration’s inner workings into public and political discussion

Space Shuttle Columbia’s fateful reentry was no accident, either, paralleling the prior fates of cargo and crew. The vehicle was vulnerable to exterior damage, as demonstrated by a piece of foam insulation (applied to the external fuel tanks to prevent ice from forming due to the liquid hydrogen/oxygen contained inside) shedding upon launch and puncturing the shuttle’s left wing, which inevitably led to disintegration upon reentry. 

Configuration of the Space Shuttle: strapping precious cargo alongside a very costly and flammable structure, where the slightest malfunction or puncture would amount to a very explosive situation. Prior to this assembly however, the steadily evolving human spaceflight program graduated from the rockets of Redstone (Mercury) to Titan (Gemini), then the true giant leap of our technological capability and prowess – the Saturn V rocket at the height of the Apollo program. 

Watch: 'The Saturn V’ film clip from 'Fight for Space’

It worked. It could’ve taken us beyond the moon, and kept astronauts at a much safer distance from the fuel tanks, equipped with a more efficient mechanism to propel a human crew to safety when an abort maneuver was needed than the Space Shuttle ever could. While equipped with this knowledge, the human spaceflight program was downgraded into a joint crew and cargo effort to do what smaller rocket configurations eventually ended up doing, taking over the bulk of NASA’s directive, sending up astronauts to Low Earth Orbit “when necessary." 

It’s essential and necessary to criticize our efforts. We all realize that the mission to the moon moved so quickly due to the threat of being outperformed by the Soviet Union. But the citizens of Earth didn’t see it this way. Surely patriotism influenced support for these programs, but we saw much more of ourselves when viewing the Earth from space. We envisioned a society with space hotels, spinoffs and everyday marketplace catalysts making their way into our daily lives at an accelerating rate, dreams of venturing off to other worlds, seeing our home planet from afar, being granted a wonderful new perspective on our existence together, and doing bold and risky things for the benefit of an entire planet. 

We associated the term "hero” with those who dove to extraneous depths beneath the sea, rushed headstrong into fires to save lives, and sometimes, rode a behemoth of a launch vehicle into the sky amidst the quiet cold of space to extend our human presence beyond our terrestrial home.

Indeed, we will speak to our children about these incidents, but we will not be coy with them. We will explain the risks involved, the arduous task it is from conception to construction and launch to landing. We’ll illustrate the importance of space exploration alongside the tremendous impact it’s had on shaping our culture, our present understanding of the universe, ourselves, and our future as a species. We will not, however, lie to them about the cause and effect relationship in regards to the decisions that were made, and continue to be made. We’ll explain why space exploration companies like SpaceX, Virgin Galactic, XCOR Aerospace, Planetary Resources, Deep Space Industries, Astrobotic, and countless emerging others are poised to disrupt the political oligarchy whose kept the space program essentially “grounded” from doing what it is capable of.

Indeed, as President Reagan asserted, “the future does not belong to the fainthearted, it belongs to the brave.

And we intend to equip our children with the knowledge necessary to recognize when there’s a problem, meet that problem with the same open mind that propelled us to discover it, and after meticulous scrutiny, extract everything we can from it to gain further perspective. We will tell our children that yes, these new endeavors being explored and performed by multiple space companies are the things we’ve been capable of since the American space program started; but those who direct the funding decided to pull back, even while it was bringing the world together toward a common evolving vision of the humankind’s future amongst the stars.

Today’s 'space entrepreneurs’ haven’t all had the same coincidental epiphanies. They witnessed the developing space program during their childhood, watched it whither and drift from mainstream news, pop culture, and most notably – Congressional priority. Having learned from a model of what not to do, they’re taking advantage of the plethora of modern scientific advancements along an accelerating exponential growth curve, and applying them toward the development of ambitions worthy of our attention, support, and above all – hope for the spacefaring future of humankind we anticipated not so long ago. The lives lost, accomplishments achieved, technologies developed, knowledge gained…the benefits accumulated throughout our efforts in space should have amounted to more than memories of a brief era of time where we once celebrated human beings worthy of recognition as heroes and explorers. 

The human mistakes we’ve made have since passed, but what have we learned? Instead of steadily investing our funds and potential into a spacefaring future reflective of those who died for it – we’ve retracted, demonstrated by the budget we’ve misappropriated to developing technologies in preparation for warfare:

As we progress forward in an age where we are more digitally connected than ever before, maybe we’ve become victims of our own success. We’ve taken advantage of technologies the space program is directly responsible for, whereby we’re permitted quicker access to witness history unfolding in front of us. The difference however, between the space age of the 60’s/70’s is that the connectivity we’ve gained from those space assets bridged from exploration beyond Earth now allows us to take part in a means of activism and change like never before. 

No longer should we wait for other space entrepreneurs to arise. We have it in our own individual power to #FightforSpace. Our Kickstarter campaign is less than $8,000 away from its funding goal. We can do this. If we change the minds of Congress and/or educate the global citizenry of Earth on the necessity of space advocacy and scientific literacy, the course for our human future can be steered. 

58 hours left and counting. Join in the #FightforSpace and support our Kickstareter for SPACE.

Christa McAuliffe (1948-1986) was one of the seven victims of the Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster. She had been selected from over 11 thousand applicants to NASA’s Teacher in Space Project, and was thus supposed to become the first teacher in space.

She taught several social studies courses at Concord High School In New Hampshire, ranging from history to economics to a self-designed course entitled “The American Woman”. She started training in 1985 for becoming the first civilian and educator to fly into outer space. Her presence on the Space Shuttle Challenger greatly contributed to the high interest of the American people towards the mission; unfortunately, all of the crew members lost their lives in the tragic accident.


Many people talk about the Challenger space shuttle disaster that happened in 1989, about the tragic loss of that crew as it including a female teacher, the planned first civilian to go into space.

However, I find it saddening that the loss in 2003 of the Columbia is not as often remembered nor mentioned.

Take a moment to remember Kalpana Chawla, the first Indian-American astronaut and the first Indian woman in space.

Remember Laurel Clark, a doctor, a US Navy Captain, and a devoted mother.

Also, remember

William Mccool

Michael Anderson

llan Ramon (first Israeli astronaut)

David Brown


January 28th 1986: Challenger Disaster

On this day in 1986, the US space shuttle Challenger exploded 73 seconds into its tenth flight, killing all seven crew members on board. The craft had taken off from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, but never reached orbit as it disintegrated over the Atlantic Ocean, just off the Florida coast. The crew compartment and various fragments from the vessel were recovered from the ocean floor in the following months, and several of the crew are known to have survived the initial breakup and died upon impact with the ocean surface. One of those killed in the disaster was schoolteacher Christa McAuliffe, a civilian selected for the flight as part of a NASA project to send the first teacher to space and inspire ordinary people with space travel. McAuliffe’s involvement meant that the Challenger’s take-off was widely watched across the nation, and thousands watched in horror as the disaster unfolded. The cause of the craft’s break-up has been put down to technical malfunction, caused by mistakes made by NASA in the design of the vessel and the organisation of its flight. This incident damaged the illustrious administration’s reputation, and halted the Space Shuttle programme as safety measures were revised. The tragedy occurred the same day President Ronald Reagan was due to give his fifth annual State of the Union speech to Congress, but he postponed the speech and instead gave a national address on the disaster. The two-term President later called January 28th, 1986 “one of the hardest days I ever spent in the Oval Office". In was on this day that, in one of the most famous speeches of his presidency, Reagan mourned the Challenger crew and quoted the poem ‘High Flight’ by John Gillespie Magee Jr., a young American pilot killed in World War Two.

“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.’”

Judith Resnik (1949-1986) was a NASA astronaut and engineer, and the second female astronaut in the United States. She was one of the astronauts who tragically lost their lives in the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster in 1986.

She had a PhD in electrical engineering, and also worked for the National Institutes of Health as a biomedical engineer. Her first space flight was on the maiden voyage of Discovery in 1984, which made her the first American Jewish and first Jewish woman in space. Today, an award in her name recognizes outstanding merits in engineering at the IEEE.


Incredible Photos Emerge of the 1986 Challenger Shuttle Disaster

Many people watched the Challenger Space Shuttle take off on January 28, 1986 and tragically combust less than two minutes into its flight. Now, nearly 28 years since the catastrophic event, photos of the shuttle’s takeoff and unexpected explosion have emerged via Michael Hindes. While rummaging through some of his grandfather’s old boxes, following the passing of his grandmother, the West Springfield, Massachusetts resident discovered a number of images documenting the disaster.

While many looked on in horror almost three decades ago, those feelings of heartbreak are felt once again today through these images taken by a photographer who was a friend and coworker of Hindes’ grandfather, a former contractor for NASA. The moving images stir up old emotions of an event that was meant to be a bright story, especially since Christa McAuliffe was aboard as the first intended teacher in space. Now, these historical photos serve as a remembrance of the lives tragically lost.


29 Years ago today. I remember watching this on TV when I was 5.

The Space Shuttle Challenger disaster occurred on January 28, 1986, when the NASA Space Shuttle orbiter Challenger (OV-099) (mission STS-51-L) broke apart 73 seconds into its flight, leading to the deaths of its seven crew members. The spacecraft disintegrated over the Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of Cape Canaveral, Florida at 11:38 EST (16:38 UTC).

Twenty-Five Years Ago: Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster
External image

On January 28, 1986 at 11:38 AM, the space shuttle Challenger broke apart 73 seconds after the launch of its tenth mission. The breakup was ultimately due to the failure of an O-ring on its right solid-fuel rocket booster (SRB), which are used to seal the joints between the multiple segments of the SRBs. All seven crew members died in the disaster. Christa McAuliffe, who was selected to be the first teacher in space, was one of the crew members of this mission.

On March 7, 2012, Neil deGrasse Tyson submitted a testimony to lawmakers in Washington during a hearing entitled “Priorities, Plans, and Progress of the Nation’s Space Program." 

It was a compelling testimony on the past, present, and future of NASA, embodying a message which spoke for generations who’ve come and gone, and generations still to come. However meaningful and passionate Dr. Tyson’s words were (and still are), his voice was only communicated to lawmakers who already support a more robustly funded space program in America, while the politicians who needed to hear Tyson’s testimony didn’t even bother to show up.

Dr. Tyson’s words also were not broadcast for all to see. A local C-SPAN network was on hand, fortunately, to record this video, which then, was uploaded by someone on YouTube, where it went viral, acquiring millions of views spread across other users who’ve passed it along. 

During a week where we remember and honor true heroes who put their lives at risk for the greater ambitions and good of humanity demonstrated by the Apollo 1 fire - upon which we have greatly advanced and evolved in our understanding of astronaut/vehicle safety - and the fateful Space Shuttle Challenger disaster - which lifted the veil of ignorance and mismanagement that claimed the lives of astronauts and the first non-astronaut in space - dedicate 25 minutes to watching and listening intently on the words and articulation of Neil deGrasse Tyson’s advocation for space exploration.

If we depend solely on scientifically illiterate, election-cycle-driven legislators in Congress to decide for themselves how NASA should or should not be utilized, we risk enduring another 46 years of stagnation in space while other countries pass us by regarding education, innovation, employment, and human achievement. 

However, if we, as a collective democracy, decide to fight for something that will benefit us now, tomorrow, and beyond our own lifetimes, we provide meaning in our own lives. If we educate the public, we create a more informed society aware of the dangers we face through inaction and conservative thinking. We can reach Congress and educate the public globally with this film. 

Support this Kickstarter and help us achieve our $80K goal before February 1. Together, we can stake a claim toward our future, the American space program our taxes support, and endorse the #FightforSpace.