A nation remembers and mourns the 26th anniversary of the loss of the Space Shuttle Challenger and its crew today. On January 28, 1986 at 11:38 am, the Challenger broke apart and its crew was lost to the heavens when an O-ring on its right SRB rocket booster broke, leading to a fuel tank rupture and a catastrophic explosion.
Lieutenant Colonel Ellison Onizuka, a 39-year old Air Force test pilot and NASA astronaut who was born in Kealakekua, Hawaii was among the brave crew of Challenger mission STS-51-L, and will always be remembered by locals as Hawaii’s Astronaut. Spirit still among the stars but body laid to rest in Hawaii’s Punchbowl National Cemetery, Onizuka’s grave stone still attracts homage from visitors and provokes tears and sharp salutes alike.
Onizuka is credited with having said, “Every generation has the obligation to free men’s minds for a look at new worlds … to look out from a higher plateau than the last generation.” At the time when the Shuttle Challenger exploded, I was six years old and watching the event live on television. It was a memory that even at that young age I understood the full implications of – my own father being an Air Force officer – and one of many moments of my life that has humbled me to respect those who bravely serve our country and inspired me to always look heavenward…
January 28th, 1986 at 11:39 am EDT – The Space Shuttle Challenger Explodes on its 10th flight during mission STS-51-L. The explosion occurred 73 seconds after liftoff and was actually the result of rapid deceleration and not combustion of fuel.
CNN was the only national news station to broadcast the mission live, so thus what you are witnessing on this video is the only coverage of the disaster as it happened when it did. Approximately 17% of Americans witnessed the launch live, while 85% 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 disseminated so fast – the first being the announcement of JFK’s assassination in 1963, the second being news spread among students at Kent State regarding the news of FDR’s death in 1945. It has been estimated at the time that nearly 48% of 9-13 year olds witnessed the event in their classrooms, as McAuliffe was in the spotlight.
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).
Christa McAuliffe was slated to be the first teacher in space for the Teacher in Space Program. As her maximum altitude was ~65,000ft (12.31 miles), she never made it to space. That title was given to Barbara Morgan of STS-118 aboard the shuttle Endeavour in August 2007, 22 and a half 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)
- For NASA, a day to honor fallen astronauts (msnbc.msn.com)
- This Day In History: Challenger Tragedy-January 28,1986 (wirk.radio.com)
- A Day of Remembrance (acrosstheuniverseinnotime.com)
Filed under: aloha, Technology, Transportation, Unexplained Phenomenon Tagged: | Christa McAuliffe, Dick Scobee, Ellison Onizuka, Gregory Jarvis, Lt. Col. Onizuka, McAuliffe, NASA, Ronald McNair, Space Shuttle Challenger