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  Jan. 28, 1986: Remembering STS-51L/Challenger

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Author Topic:   Jan. 28, 1986: Remembering STS-51L/Challenger
Robert Pearlman

Posts: 27328
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 01-28-2013 07:50 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Roger Launius on Remembering the Challenger Seven: 27 Years On
Since the loss of STS-51L took place on this date in 1986 I thought I would reflect on the lives of the crew that was lost in that tragedy. These seven astronauts — including the specialties of pilot, aerospace engineers, and scientists — died in the destruction of their spacecraft 73 seconds after launch from the Kennedy Space Center on 28 Jan. 1986. The cause of the accident was a leak at the joint of one of two Solid Rocket Boosters that ignited the main liquid fuel tank.

The crew members of the Challenger represented a cross-section of the American population in terms of race, gender, geography, background, and religion. The explosion became one of the most significant events of the 1980s, as billions around the world saw the accident on television and empathized with any one of the several crew members killed. Each has a unique story...

Robert Pearlman

Posts: 27328
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 01-28-2013 07:53 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Challenger Center release
Challenger Center Marks 27th Anniversary of Space Shuttle Tragedy

On Monday, Jan. 28, Challenger Center for Space Science Education (Challenger Center) will recognize the anniversary of the Challenger tragedy as it continues its work to strengthen students' interest and knowledge in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). The non-profit organization was formed as a living tribute to the seven members of the crew and is dedicated to the educational spirit of their mission.

Challenger Center and its network of Challenger Learning Centers will recognize the anniversary in a variety of ways, including launching rockets, writing letters about how the crew provided inspiration, and designing commemorative anniversary badges. The Challenger Center staff will visit the memorial at Arlington National Cemetery."It has been 27 years since we lost Challenger and its seven crew members, a crew who had grand plans for discovery and adventure," said Dr. June Scobee Rodgers, founding chair, Challenger Center, and widow of Challenger commander Dick Scobee. "On that day, we lost the beloved crew, but not their desire to help teach a nation of children waiting and watching with eager anticipation."

The organization's first Challenger Learning Center opened in 1988, and today there are more than 45 locations around the globe. The core of each Learning Center is an interactive computerized simulator with a mission control room patterned after the NASA Johnson Space Center, and an orbiting space station ready for exploration. Each year, more than 400,000 students participate in space-themed missions that have been developed to strengthen the student's knowledge and interest in STEM.

Ensuring today's students have a deep understanding of STEM subject areas is at the root of Challenger Center's work. STEM jobs are projected to grow at a fast pace relative to other occupations, and the majority of the fastest growing occupations require significant math or science preparation to successfully compete for a job. Today, a lack of skills in STEM subject areas is said to be the reasoning for many of the nation's vacant positions.

"Each of us on this Earth share a responsibility to ensure that our young people are prepared for opportunities to thrive and lead fulfilling lives in a highly technical world," said Dr. Lance Bush, president and ceo, Challenger Center, "We are working tirelessly to continue the expansion of our mission, inspiring more students to become science literate citizens and pursue STEM careers."

Challenger Center recognizes the importance of identifying new, innovative ways to reach students. This includes developing new technology platforms, creating new lessons and bringing Learning Centers to new communities. In 2013, Challenger Center plans to welcome three new Learning Centers to its network.

"Challenger Center continues the educational mission of Challenger and its seven crew members through our global network of Challenger Learning Centers," said Dr. Scott Parazynski, chairman, Challenger Center. "Today's students are our future leaders. Each year we engage hundreds of thousands of students as they fly missions of discovery through outer and inner space. Over our long history, these hands-on experiences have inspired many to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math. This is the vital and continuing mission of Challenger Center, and it is a true honor to be a part the Challenger crew's legacy."

The seven crew members of shuttle flight STS-51-L — Commander Dick Scobee, Gregory Jarvis, Christa McAuliffe, Ronald McNair, Ellison Onizuka, Judith Resnik, and Michael J. Smith — were part of the first Teacher in Space Project. The NASA program, announced by President Ronald Reagan in 1984, was designed to inspire students, honor teachers, and spur interest in mathematics, science, and space exploration. Christa McAuliffe was selected by NASA to be the first teacher in space.

"Our loved ones were space pioneers, something we wanted the entire world to remember," continued Scobee Rodgers. "With the Challenger families and support from leaders across our nation, Challenger Center for Space Science Education was created to continue their education mission. And today, this living tribute honors that mission — to explore, discover and teach."


Posts: 116
From: Houston, TX, USA
Registered: Jan 2012

posted 01-28-2013 08:00 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for schnappsicle   Click Here to Email schnappsicle     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The Challenger and Apollo 1 disasters are two of the worst days of my life. Even today, I can't hear "Go for throttle up" without choking up. I have yet to hear the torture the Apollo 1 astronauts suffered during the fire that cost them their lives.

I was fortunate enough to be at JSC the day Reagan spoke to the workers following the Challenger explosion. As I stood there listening to the President, I could hear people all around me crying; something I could not hear when I watched highlights of the speech on the nightly news that night. The tears shed by the workers really brought the tragedy home to me. I saw first hand the real sense of family among the people who worked at JSC in those days.

I hope we get it back soon because those were very special times in the life of this nation.


Posts: 78
From: Galloway Township, NJ USA
Registered: Aug 2009

posted 01-28-2013 08:12 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Skyforce1   Click Here to Email Skyforce1     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I was in the middle of the Arizona desert at Ft. Huachuca training to deploy the USAF Ground Launched Cruise Missiles in Europe. Didn't get to see the news for 10 days. We all thought the instructors were messing with our minds. No newspapers, no radios, no internet, just their word. Had no idea the outpouring of grief when we got back to Davis-Monthan AFB. It's all everyone was talking about. Very sad last couple of weeks there.

Sy Liebergot

Posts: 458
From: Pearland, Texas USA
Registered: May 2003

posted 01-28-2013 08:14 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Sy Liebergot   Click Here to Email Sy Liebergot     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I am reminded of this:
Astronaut Remembrance Week

(This is a short speech I delivered during Astronaut Remembrance Week at the Museum of Flight on January 27, 2004.)

It's an honor to speak to you today as a guest of your city's incredible Museum of Flight.

This week has been dedicated to be a time of remembrance of our fallen astronauts. There have been seventeen brave souls who paid the ultimate price to advance humankind's venture into space.

Let me quote some words from a speech President G.W. Bush gave regarding the loss of the Columbia astronauts. I believe they apply equally to all of our astronaut losses. He said, in part:

"The loss was sudden and terrible, and for their families, the grief is heavy. Our nation shares in your sorrow and in your pride. And today we remember not only one moment of tragedy, but seven lives of great purpose and achievement. To leave behind Earth and air and gravity is an ancient dream of humanity. For these seven, it was a dream fulfilled. Each of these astronauts had the daring and discipline required of their calling. Each of them knew that great endeavors are inseparable from great risks. And each of them accepted those risks willingly, even joyfully, in the cause of discovery."

We remember the Apollo 1 space crew, Flight Commander Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee, who were killed in a flash fire in the Command Module on January 27, 1967, during their participation in a rehearsal for the launch of the first manned Apollo mission.

We remember the crew of the Space Shuttle Challenger (STS-51L); Commander Dick Scobee, Michael Smith, Judy Resnick, Ellison Onizuka, Ron McNair, Gregory Jarvis and Christa McAuliffe. They died tragically in the explosion of their spacecraft during launch on January 28, 1986. The explosion occurred 73 seconds into the flight as a result of a leak in one of the two solid rock boosters that ignited the external main liquid fuel tank.

We remember the crew of the Space Shuttle Columbia (STS-107): Commander Rick Husband, David Brown, Laurel Clark, Kalpana Chawla, Michael Anderson, Willie McCool and Ilan Ramon. They were lost when Space Shuttle Columbia broke up during re-entry on February 1, 2003, due to a breech in the left wing caused by the 545 mph impact of a 1.7 pound piece of the external tank insulation foam that broke off during launch.

Sad as these losses have been, they have not been without purpose as they have taught harsh lessons of the risk of exploring a new frontier and allowed us to learn lessons that will make space travel safer as we now make plans to return humans to the Moon — from there venture landing people on Mars.

— Sy Liebergot


Posts: 262
From: Texas * Earth
Registered: Apr 2011

posted 01-28-2013 10:44 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Cozmosis22     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote

Rob Joyner

Posts: 1292
From: GA, USA
Registered: Jan 2004

posted 01-28-2013 11:20 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Rob Joyner   Click Here to Email Rob Joyner     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
27 years ago, I leisurely walked from my apartment a few blocks to my drama class. It was a bright and sunny morning, and just a little cool. I really enjoyed the class. Our teacher, Mr. Tate, was perfect for it. A very witty and animated man, he and I would eventually be in a few plays together at the local community theatre.

I got there a little early. Just a few other students had arrived. About five maybe. I proceeded to my usual seat, up front near the center of the room and was talking with a student sitting next to me. Then another student, I don't remember her name, went past me and sat down in my row about three seats behind me. And then she spoke the words that I can still hear today - "Did you see it?! Did you see it?! The space shuttle blew up!!"

I paused for a second. Stunned. Someone had thrown a brick to my head. I turned around to her, "What?! What did you say?!"

"The space shuttle blew up! They just showed it on TV!"

"What?! Are you sure?"

"Yeah! I was watching it and it blew up after it was in the air!"

I turned back around in my seat and just stared at nothing. I could hear her telling her story over and over again to other students who had just arrived. Then I spoke to the other student next to me about it and said I hoped Mr. Tate would let us out early so I could get back home. He did. And when I got back, it was all over the news. The countdown. The launch. 73 seconds.

"Challenger, go at throttle up."

"Roger. Go at throttle up."

And then they passed into history, and never I thought about spaceflight the same way again.


Posts: 1287
From: West Jordan, Utah USA
Registered: Dec 1999

posted 01-28-2013 11:26 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for randy   Click Here to Email randy     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote


Posts: 215
From: Round Lake, IL, US
Registered: Jan 2009

posted 01-28-2013 12:53 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for dabolton   Click Here to Email dabolton     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I hope all of the newer manned-systems coming online are taking into the lessons to be learned by these accidents.


Posts: 183
From: Albany, Oregon USA
Registered: Jul 2006

posted 01-28-2013 07:00 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for mach3valkyrie   Click Here to Email mach3valkyrie     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote


Posts: 442
From: Syracuse, New York, USA
Registered: Oct 2009

posted 01-28-2013 07:37 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for garyd2831   Click Here to Email garyd2831     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I was in 2nd grade and like most schools kids, we were watching the launch on CNN. I remember after the announcement of a "major malfunction", the school custodian who was standing in our class watching the television left to lower the flag outside.

Henry Heatherbank

Posts: 146
From: Adelaide, South Australia
Registered: Apr 2005

posted 01-29-2013 03:17 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Henry Heatherbank     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
On Australian time, the launches during this period always happened in the middle of our night. And this was before the days of Pay TV, Internet, social media, so you pretty much had to rely on radio news breaks or hope that one of the TV stations carried a feed (most likely delayed) from CNN. If none of that worked, you were srtuck with whatever the chatty morning news programs carried (like, "Today" with Steve Liebman and Sue Kellaway, for those with good memories).

On this morning, 27 years ago, it was something like an 0400 launch time for me, but I wadn't expecting TV coverage until the morning news programs began at about 0530.

Coincidentally, I woke up at 0400 anyway, and literally caught the last half of a radio newsflash that Challenger had "blown up". I immediately suspected an SSME failure on the pad, or only one SRB igniting. I leapt out of bed, figuring this would be live on TV, which it was, and watched the excellent US television coverage solidly for the next 6 hours or so.

Similar to earlier threads, even to this day I can't listen to "Go at the throttle up" and not have the hairs on my neck stand up. A tragically unforgettable morning.


Posts: 555
From: South Carolina
Registered: Jul 2006

posted 01-29-2013 07:04 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for ea757grrl   Click Here to Email ea757grrl     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
On every post-51L mission I watched on television, I could never hear the "go at throttle up" call without a little bit of anxiety, and I always felt just a little relieved when the SRBs separated. When I was down for the STS-124 launch you couldn't miss the applause when the SRBs separated, and I'd be willing to wager I wasn't the only one applauding because of what happened in that same sky in 1986.

As a personal aside, I can never let the date of Challenger's loss go by without thinking about how that event changed the entire trajectory of my life. For the Challenger accident is what rekindled my then-dormant interest in spaceflight and aviation, and led me to where I am and what I do now. While all of us owe the 51-L crew deep respect and tribute, the debt I owe them is especially personal, and each Jan. 28 reminds me of that fact.


Posts: 2284
From: Renton, WA USA
Registered: Jan 2000

posted 01-29-2013 02:11 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for tegwilym   Click Here to Email tegwilym     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
27 years already.

I'll just say that for every year until the shuttle retired, I always felt some tension when I heard "_____ go at throttle up."



Posts: 215
From: Round Lake, IL, US
Registered: Jan 2009

posted 01-29-2013 05:00 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for dabolton   Click Here to Email dabolton     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I attended junior high in Seabrook, TX with many astronauts' children including Challenger's (I moved away just prior to the accident). Friends have recounted the stories of the shock within the high school where many of the kids attended. Almost everyone there had a connection to the program in one way or another. It was their community so directly affected.


Posts: 103
From: Virginia
Registered: Nov 2009

posted 01-29-2013 05:54 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for drjeffbang   Click Here to Email drjeffbang     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Originally posted by ea757grrl:
While all of us owe the 51-L crew deep respect and tribute, the debt I owe them is especially personal, and each Jan. 28 reminds me of that fact.
What a great story, and if you don't mind me asking... what is it that 51-L directed you to do in your life?

I was 17 years old during Challenger and I have been explaining to my 9 year old daughter the impact the disaster had on the 1980's.

What a sad week for NASA this is...


Posts: 547
From: Statesville, NC
Registered: Mar 2009

posted 01-30-2013 06:48 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for dogcrew5369   Click Here to Email dogcrew5369     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I was 15 oddly enough out of school that day because of the cold. I believe it was about 9 degrees that morning here in NC. I was watching it from the start on CNN with my sister. I'll never forget that second when it happened. I too cringed just a little every time that call for "throttle up" was given. From then on I have been an avid space program follower. RIP Challenger 7.


Posts: 443
From: Monticello, KY USA
Registered: Mar 2007

posted 01-30-2013 07:41 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for jasonelam   Click Here to Email jasonelam     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
27 years later, I still cannot watch the moment of the breakup. I was in fourth grade and sick at home the day of the launch when my mom yelled. "Jason, the Shuttle!". After I ran downstairs and saw the TV , everything was a blur. Godspeed, Challenger.


Posts: 555
From: South Carolina
Registered: Jul 2006

posted 02-02-2013 08:19 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for ea757grrl   Click Here to Email ea757grrl     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Originally posted by drjeffbang:
What a great story, and if you don't mind me asking... what is it that 51-L directed you to do in your life?

It's kind of roundabout and very lengthy, but the rekindling of my interests in space and aviation brought about after Challenger led me to explore some space/aviation/history-related fields, introduced me to some great folks, and ultimately led me to graduate school and a teaching career. Not what I planned (heck, at one point I wanted to be an astronaut), but it's been a blessing.

On a more profoundly personal level, that rekindled interest in space and aviation led to two of the strongest friendships I've ever had (and one of those friends, I ended up marrying).

Bill Nelson

Posts: 55
From: Lakewood, Colorado U.S.A.
Registered: Jul 2006

posted 02-13-2013 09:45 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Bill Nelson   Click Here to Email Bill Nelson     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Back at the time of the Challenger accident and investigation, I remember some news reports about an engineer that had an alternate theory about what caused the Challenger accident. He thought that the SRB joint failure wasn't due to an o-ring seal failure. He thought that the whole joint had failed because that missions payloads were too heavy and that caused the joint to collapse.

The last I ever heard about this was about a year after the accident in an article saying that that engineer had been invited by Marshall Space Flight Center to give a presentation to them on his alternative theory. Does anyone remember that story and the engineer's name?

Robert Pearlman

Posts: 27328
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 02-13-2013 09:50 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Yes, his theories (e.g that the space shuttle "twang" just before launch and the supposed motion imparted on the solid rocket booster joints when the crawler made the turn down the crawlerway from the Vehicle Assembly Building to Pad 39B were the culprit) were found to be baseless.


Posts: 512
From: washington, Illinois USA
Registered: Jan 2006

posted 02-14-2013 09:04 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for astro-nut   Click Here to Email astro-nut     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I, too, remember where I was when this space tragedy occurred. Every year I, especially, remember the dates of January 27th, January 28th and February 1st. GODSPEED to the crews of Apollo 1, Challenger/51-L and Columbia/107.


Posts: 215
From: Round Lake, IL, US
Registered: Jan 2009

posted 02-14-2013 11:09 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for dabolton   Click Here to Email dabolton     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
In remembrance of these crews, the end of January/beginning of February should be a stand-down period for safety reviews and procedure updates.

posted 03-13-2013 03:50 PM           Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I have posted a video to YouTube which shows the launch countdown, etc.

All times are CT (US)

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