Space Shuttle Challenger 20 years later


macrumors Core
Original poster
Jan 4, 2002
It was January 28, 1986 when the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded 73 seconds after takeoff. Christa McAuliffe was to be the first teacher in space. Where were you when it happened. I was 5 and remember it very clear as I watched it on TV. It is one of the things I will never forget.

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER (Jan. 27) - It was a sight Americans will never forget.

Twenty years ago tomorrow, space shuttle Challenger blew apart 73 seconds after blasting off from Florida, killing all seven astronauts on board. Among them was Christa McAuliffe, who was to have been the first teacher in space.

Commander Dick Scobee (SKOH'-bee), pilot Mike Smith and astronauts Ellison Onizuka, Judy Resnik, Ron McNair and Greg Jarvis also died.

Challenger was brought down by a poorly designed seal in the shuttle's solid rocket booster.

Tomorrow, a ceremony remembering the Challenger accident is planned at the Kennedy Space Center. NASA workers paused yesterday to remember the crews of Challenger and Columbia and the three astronauts who died in an Apollo launchpad fire


macrumors Penryn
Jul 11, 2003
One of those tragic events where everyone remembers where they were. I was at work in a video store and we had the TV on. As word spread, the store was packed as people just watched the coverage.

Thomas Veil

macrumors 68020
Feb 14, 2004
I was at work too. Somebody had the radio on and when we heard about it, we turned on a nearby TV. I remember that nobody, even the newscasters, wanted to say that the shuttle had blown apart. But after a minute or so of staring into empty sky and seeing nothing but the white plumes, well...the horrible reality began to sink in.


macrumors 68020
Jun 13, 2005
I was at Norfeldt Elementary School in West Hartford, Connecticut (I was in third grade at the time). I remember hearing rumors outside the cafeteria -- then we all sat down in the library and we were told what happened.

I remember going home, at 8 years old, and feeling the burden of having to "break the news" to my mother -- I remember so vividly trying to figure out how and what to say.

She had the TV on, of course. I'll never forget seeing the actual explosion for the first time -- such an instant, vivid depcition of death that was so simultaneously not human -- this lurking, emergent death amidst trails of smoke and machinery.


macrumors Penryn
Jul 11, 2003
The worst thing was how the news (ABC as I recall) just kept replaying it over and over and over and over and over and over...

Dont Hurt Me

macrumors 603
Dec 21, 2002
Yahooville S.C.
The worst thing is Nasa is still using the P.O.S. 20 yrs later but its as unreliable as it was then, and in fact Nasa is so screwed up it has to use Russian rockets to get to the ISS. 20 yrs and Nasa has learned nothing and still just wants to keep pooring billions down the drain into shuttle while collecting dust.


macrumors Core
Mar 17, 2005
London, England
i was 8 - i saw it on TV in school. it was a really creepy feeling. it was the first time i recall seeing something that actually killed people. :(


macrumors 604
Jan 14, 2005
visiting from downstream
I was still in high school (a senior), but that week I was working as a page (sorta like an intern) at the NC Department of Commerce in Raleigh... I was running some paperwork from one office to another and when I got on the elevator, someone said "Hey, did you hear that the Space Shuttle blew up?" Not long after that, everyone could be found watching various TVs scattered about the place.

Very sad event. But if you think conquering a new frontier can be done without loss of life, think again.


macrumors 68030
Aug 10, 2004
I was in Corpus Christi, I was in flight training with the Navy. I had an early morning (crack of dawn) flight and had just gotten to my condo and grabbed a drink, sat down and cut on the tube to watch. The rest is well known.

As a pilot in training it was impactful, aviation is dangerous and unforgiving, and space travel even more so.

God Speed Challenger Crew!


macrumors 603
I was getting out of classes, and went to wait tables at a local restaurant for lunch. It was very quiet all through lunch, and everyone was getting up to watch the TVs throughout their meals. I was 23.

I remember exactly what I was doing 09/11/01, how I heard it, and the rest of the day's events as well. It was like slow motion.

Chip NoVaMac

macrumors G3
Dec 25, 2003
Northern Virginia
Man, I am feeling old here. I was at work. Customers came in telling us what happened. We had a B&W TV that ha a hard time getting reception in the underground mall in Crystal City VA.


macrumors 68030
Aug 5, 2004
a profane existence
I was 5 years old then. But I do remember it being discussed on the television some years later.

Got some pictures of the actual explosion that my step-grandfather took. He knew that something went wrong. My step-grandfather and grandmother were watching the shuttle from their backyard in Daytona Beach.


macrumors G3
Aug 20, 2003
sitting on your shoulder
MacNut said:
Challenger was brought down by a poorly designed seal in the shuttle's solid rocket booster.
More specifically, the o-ring was the wrong size. It was too big in radius, and thus, couldn't form the proper seal. It should have been a little bit smaller, so that the gasses would push it into place, thus forming the correct seal.


macrumors P6
Jun 4, 2003
I was in elementary school in a gifted class, as I remember, when our principal came on over the intercom and made the announcement. It didn't really take effect until I went home for lunch and watched the footage on the TV, but I'll never forget it.

Chip NoVaMac

macrumors G3
Dec 25, 2003
Northern Virginia
Counterfit said:
More specifically, the o-ring was the wrong size. It was too big in radius, and thus, couldn't form the proper seal. It should have been a little bit smaller, so that the gasses would push it into place, thus forming the correct seal.
This second "guessing" (I know of the reports) bothers me. As explores went on the search of the "New World", would we be where we are if they found out that using one sized nail verses another would have saved lives?

Exploration of "unknown" worlds requires risk. Hopefully we address the risk in order to save lives. In the case of the Challenger, we found out that the "O" rings were not of proper design for the "colder weather" launch.

Now we have concerns that have been there from the beginning about debris that can cause damage during launch.

Early on in my youth I was caught up with space flight. In my day, we had Space Bonds (Savings Bonds) to fund the future. For those of us in the "know", we realized the loss of life from those on the "ground" doing research flights to make space travel possible. Add to that the crew of Apollo 1, and their tragic loss of life.

Today though we seem to want space travel to be as safe as boarding an airliner. Never going to happen in most of our life times.

With Virgin Atlantic backing Virgin Galactic and Spaceship One; what will happen on the 3rd or 12th trip of Spaceship Two when it ends in disaster? Do we end the program? Or do we learn from the lessons?

Over the years I have been privileged to have met or known a few in the elite that make up our astronaut corps. A few have shared their thoughts after Apollo 1 and Challenger.

The main thought they left me with is that they know the risks. And the risks are worth the long term benefits. And that if they leave this life as did the Challenger crew did 20 years ago, they only hope there are lessons to be learned and benefits to be gained.


macrumors 65816
Feb 18, 2003
I happened to be home sick from school. Although it perhaps sounds insensitive in retrospect, after the intial fascination, I was so pissed that the coverage (which went on forever) pre-empted all the great cartoons I was planning on watching to nurse me back to health.


macrumors 603
Jun 19, 2003
Chicago, IL
was in gradeschool when it happed. Frankly it didn't phase me that much because...well I was a kid.

I didn't realize until about 3 years ago the framed picture I had hanging on the wall of my bedroom was none other then her. . .

I woke up to the news about Columbia. This time, a little older, hopefully a little wiser, I hit me harder. Much harder. What can I say. I'm a space nut. This kind of thing hit me hard. They aren't doing this to defend a political policy or agenda. They aren't doing this job in the name of a country. They aren't doing this job for anything other then the progress of humanity and our knowledge of our world and universe. The irrational part of me demands that such jobs should be exempt from danger and death. But reality kicks in and we know the truth: death has happened in noble pursuits in the past and will in the future.


macrumors G4
One of the things that we don't think about so much these days, is that back in 1986, 24-hour news channels were in their infancy.

Very few people saw Challenger break up in 'real-time' since by then a shuttle launch was no longer 'major news'. It was beamed live into many schools in the US, and in the UK, a children's news programme showed it since to them, it was interesting. I remember the horror on John Craven's face when the spaceship disintegrated and he was trying to explain it to an audience of school kids before the main BBC news took over.

Once it happened, the major networks started showing the tape replays of it.

I was in Houston on the anniversary of the Columbia loss - the Super Bowl was there - and we went down to NASA. It was very poignant how they remembered those that had died on missions. When they took us out for our tour, the tram stopped at a newly planted circle of trees which had been planted in memory of the Columbia astronauts. They also pointed out the trees further along which were part of the Challenger memorial