Remembering the Challenger Shuttle Explosion: A Disaster 25 Years Ago


The Space Shuttle Challenger

25 years ago today, one of the most tragic events in the history of the United States space program occurred.  The Space Shuttle Challenger, on what would have been its 10th mission to space, broke apart 73 seconds after takeoff, ending the mission and the lives of all 7 crew members aboard.  But what exactly caused the space shuttle to explode?

The Challenger Space Shuttle (NASA Orbiter Vehicle Designation OV-099) went on nine successful space flight missions before the disaster that occurred on January 28, 1986.  A little over one minute after takeoff, the shuttle began breaking apart.  The issues compounded, and eventually the spacecraft reached complete structural failure and crashed.

While several variables ultimately led to the disaster, the originating cause is believed to be due to an o-ring on the right solid-fuel booster.  Such o-rings are used to form seals between the various fuel compartments on the boosters.  The failure of such an o-ring and the volatility of the fuels surrounding it caused fire to erupt at incorrect places, causing more failures on the Challenger.  More fires erupted and explosions occurred, eventually causing the spacecraft to change course in its upward flight.  At mach 1.92, it is essential that the space shuttle fly at the proper angle to handle the aerodynamic forces being undertaken.  Unfortunately, the correct angle was eventually lost, causing the Challenger to ultimately and catastrophically break apart.

The Crew of the Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster

The crew on the January 28, 1986 flight

Here is the list of the crew members that were on-board the Challenger on this fateful flight:

  • Michael J. Smith
  • Dick Scobee
  • Ronald McNair
  • Ellison Onizuka
  • Christa McAuliffe
  • Gregory Jarvis
  • Judith Resnik

As a result of this disaster, the shuttle fleet of the United State space program was grounded for two and a half years while the disaster was analyzed and improvements made.  A special commission, named the Rogers Commission, was tasked with finding out more information surrounding the causes of the disaster.  They identified another contributing factor to be the culture of the NASA organization at the time, as well as some of the decision-making processes used.

Below is a video of the disaster:



9 Responses to “Remembering the Challenger Shuttle Explosion: A Disaster 25 Years Ago”

  • Josh says:

    I was in the age of 7 when this happened and I still remember the pictures on TV. Even today this tragedy frightens me in a special way. This highly engineered spacecraft and this massive power and everything depended on a single part. My thoughts for today are with the crew.

    [Reply]

  • alma ramos says:

    i felt very sad when i saw that i started to cry and i miss them alot

    [Reply]

  • karthick chittoor says:

    I feel really bad on this our thoughts are with the families of the seven shuttle astronauts…….

    [Reply]

  • Kevin says:

    On January 28, 1996 I was 10 years old… I still vividly remember this day because I was home from school, sick… The main reason I have such horrible memories of this tragedy is because at the time I lived in Winter Park, Florida… (A suburb of Orlando) We could actually see the launch from the end of my street… I went out with my mother to the end of our driveway that cold January morning and saw the Challenger disaster with my own eyes… Of course, even being 10 years old, I knew something horrible had just happened… I remember I just stared into the sky seeing the straight exhaust trail suddenly balloon outward with the two solid rocket boosters coming out of the cloud and going in two separate directions knowing that something very, very bad, had just taken place… My heart goes out to the families of those lost on this day 25 years ago… (sigh)

    [Reply]

  • Rod says:

    I found this article after the final shuttle mission today and so it seems fitting to pay tribute to these brave pioneers who perished.

    Like those above I too was a child, and although from the UK I was watching it on TV at the time with some friends. It’s not a image anyone will forget and indeed I often thought of this moment every time I heard of another shuttle launch.

    Anyway my thoughts are with the families of the incredible people who perished so as to advance the lives of those back on earth.

    [Reply]

  • LOL says:

    I found this article after the final shuttle mission today and so it seems fitting to pay tribute to these brave pioneers who perished.

    Like those above I too was a child, and although from the UK I was watching it on TV at the time with some friends. It’s not a image anyone will forget and indeed I often thought of this moment every time I heard of another shuttle launch.

    Anyway my thoughts are with the families of the incredible people who perished so as to advance the lives of those back on earth.

    [Reply]

  • lilly says:

    i was not alive when this happened i have to do reasearch over this poor people who died r.i.p

    [Reply]

  • Randy says:

    I was 15 when this happened. I’m in a problem solving class for my BS in project management. I choose the space shuttle program as my final report. A bulk of the report is the two disasters and what lead up to the tragedy, and the investigations to what could have been done to prevent the accidents. This article has been a great help in summering the relentless research.

    [Reply]

  • Fergy says:

    I was in high school when this tragedy occurred. I will never forget it. Later, while in U.S. Navy boot camp in Orlando, I witnessed a shuttle launch live. It was breathtaking!

    [Reply]

Leave a Comment