1986 Challenger Accident

January 26, 2001


Provided by: NASA JSC, Earth Sciences
Summary authors & editors: Jim Foster

Sunday, January 28, marks the 15th anniversary of the tragic Challenger accident. Seven astronauts lost their lives on Mission STS 51-L when the Challenger Orbiter exploded 73 seconds after lifting off from Pad 39B. Pictured above are in the bottom row (left to right) Michael Smith (Pilot), Dick Scobee (Commander), Ronald McNair (Mission Specialist), and in the top row Ellison Onizuka (Mission Specialist), Christa McAuliffe (Teacher In-Space Participant), Gregory Jarvis (Payload Specialist), and Judith Resnick (Mission Specialist). Cold temperatures contributed to the explosion. The temperature was 36 degrees F at launch time, 15 degrees F colder than any previous launch. The cold temperatures caused the rubber O rings to become brittle, and thus they were not able to properly seal the liquid hydrogen fuel, triggering a sequence of events that resulted in catastrophic failure.

And while with silent, lifting mind I've trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

The above is from the poem "High Flight" by John Gilespie Magee Jr.

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