Space Shuttle Challenger explodes and kills crew, 22 years ago today

It was called STS-51L.  Another space shuttle launch at Cape Canaveral.  This one took off for the heavens at 11:38 EST. At 1:13 secs into flight the unthinkable happened and shocked a nation.  The shuttle exploded as it headed to orbit killing all of the crew.

Astronauts of Space Shuttle Challenger
The shuttle Challenger flight STS-51L crew members who died January 28, 1986. In the back row, from left, mission specialist Ellison S. Onizuka, Teacher in Space Participant Sharon Christa McAuliffe, Payload Specialist Greg Jarvis and Mission specialist Judy Resnik. In the front row, from left, Pilot Mike Smith, Commander Dick Scobee, and Mission specialist Ron McNair.

With less than one second after lift-off the first sign of problems emerged though few saw it live.  A “strong puff of gray smoke was spurting from the vicinity of the aft field joint on the right solid rocket booster.” This part of the rocket booster faced the external tank. The joint was not sealed.  The crew never had a chance. In less than three more seconds eight more puffs of smoke. To all but the trained eye it seemed STS-51L was going smoothly.

But the reality is that the Challenger vehicle was on a course for destruction. “The black color and dense composition of the smoke puffs suggest that the grease, joint insulation and rubber O-rings in the joint seal were being burned and eroded by the hot propellant gases.”

Due to very strong wind-shear conditions the main engines had been throttled up to 104%.  It was right atthis time – 58.788 seconds into flight that the first flame appeared on the right side of the rocket booster. An ominous sign of fatal proportions.

Not even one second later, telemetry data showed the right booster chamber pressure was lower than the left, a sign the leak was growing.  Barely five seconds after the initial flame occurred there was evidence that the flame from the right rocket booster had penetrated the fuel tank.  Now it was only a matter of seconds before the worst possible scenario would take place, a total failure and explosion of the rocket booster tanks.

“The explosion 73 seconds after liftoff claimed crew and vehicle. The cause of explosion was determined to be an o-ring failure in the right solid rocket booster. Cold weather was determined to be a contributing factor.”
Quotes: unless otherwise noted, all quotes are attributed to NASA.


~ by tellinghistory on January 28, 2008.

3 Responses to “Space Shuttle Challenger explodes and kills crew, 22 years ago today”

  1. thank you for remembering this dark day…

    ….and five years ago, Columbia is destroyed too :(((

  2. These are the true modern pioneers, who are eclipsed today by nonsense. These were tragic headlines that became buried in the self importance of commercialism. Everyone of these human beings put their life on the line for the advancement of the whole human race. Today, people in uniform are putting their lives on the line for political and commercial advantage of a few leaders of countries and industry. There is a big disconnect here. Different kinds of sacrifice but tragedies, none the less. Today, so few even remember the names of these pioneers. Sadly, I worked closely with the Challenger crew. I worked too closely with the investigation that followed. That personal trauma allows me to never forget.
    January is the month for fallen Astronauts … There are 2 other tragic missions to remember.

  3. centrum download warez eu…

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