Today marks 25 years since the space shuttle Challenger was launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Orlando Florida, and exploded only moments after liftoff.
NASA’s Shuttle program was begun in the 1970s with the purpose of creating a reusable space craft for transporting cargo into space. Previous space crafts could only be used once, and then were discarded. The first shuttle, Columbia was launched in 1981. One year later, the Challenger rolled off the assembly line as the second shuttle of the US fleet. They were followed by Discovery in 1983 and Atlantis in 1985.
The Challenger flew nine successful missions before that fateful day of the disaster in 1986.
One thing made this mission unique. It was scheduled to be the first flight of a new program called TISP, the Teacher In Space Program. The Challenger was scheduled to carry the first teacher, Sharon Christa McAuliffe, to fly in space.
From the beginning, though, Shuttle Mission STS-51L was plagued by problems. Liftoff was initially scheduled on January 22, 1986 but was pushed back due to a number of different delays including weather conditions not conducive to launching the shuttle.
The Challenger finally lifted off at 11:38:00 a.m. EST. on the morning of January 28th 1986. Only 73 second after the launch and 46,000 feet in the air, Challenger exploded in front of thousands of spectators, killing the entire crew. The explosion was broadcast on live television.
In tribute, please take a moment to remember the crew which was lost on that fateful day, and say a prayer for the families they left behind.
I still can’t look at this photo without getting chills.