The Challenger Disaster By: Libby Franks

General Information

  • January 28, 1986
  • It "exploded" 73 seconds after liftoff.
  • It was fatal for all 7 of the astronauts in the space shuttle.
  • It was determined that two of the rubber O-rings failed because of cold temperatures.
  • The Challenger disaster received lots of attention from the media.
  • This event lead to NASA temporarily suspending all other shuttle missions for over 2 years.


  • In 1976 NASA introduced the space shuttle.
  • The space shuttle was the first reusable spacecraft.
  • The Challenger was NASA’s second space shuttle.
  • Before January 28,1896, the Challenger had made 9 trips.

The Astronauts

  • Christa McAuliffe- Teacher in Space
  • She was the first American civilian selected to go into space.
  • NASA announced that the first civilian to go to space would be a teacher; soon after, she sent in her application.
  • She beat over 11,000 different teachers.
  • While they were preparing for takeoff, she could only visit home on holidays.
  • She called it her year of commitment.
  • She planned to teach lessons from space that would be broadcasted on live television.
  • During the challengers liftoff, he mother, father, husband, and two kids were watching at cape Canaveral.
  • After she died, she was awarded the Congressional Space Medal of Honor.
  • Dick Scobee- Mission commander
  • Judith Resnik- Engineer and mission specialist
  • Ronald McNair- Mission specialist
  • Ellison Onizuka- Mission Specialist
  • Gregory Jarvis- Payload Specialist
  • Micheal Smith- Pilot

The Launch

  • It was launched from the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, Florida.
  • It was delayed 6 times due to weather.
  • Engineers warned superiors that the weather could effect some of the components, specifically the O-rings.
  • These warnings were disregarded at the Challenger launched at 11:39 A.M.
  • On the day of the launch it was about 25 degrees with strong gusts of wind.
  • The space shuttle fell apart and plunged into the ocean while millions watched.
  • The launch was broadcasted on live TV, and there were hundreds of people on the ground watching including families of the astronauts.
  • One TV stations program of the launch was interrupted so most people watched recordings of it later.
  • Many schools were broadcasting it live, including Christa’s school.

Government Response

  • Ronald Reagan gave a short speech soon after the disaster occurred.
  • President Ronald Reagan assigned a group of people with the task of figuring out what went wrong.
  • The investigation was lean by William Rodgers, former secretary of state.
  • Some other people in the commission were: Neil Armstrong and Chuck Yeager.
  • They soon discovered that the O-rings seal became brittle from the cold weather.
  • • The O-rings were meant to separate parts of the rocket booster.
  • They failed and flames broke out of the boosters then damaged the external fuel tank which caused the space shuttle to catch on fire.
  • They also found that the company that designed the rocket boosters and NASA were aware of potential flaws but they didn’t do anything about it.

The Aftermath

  • After the incident NASA didn’t send astronauts into space for the next two years.
  • They also redesigned parts of the space shuttle.
  • The next shuttle they launched was the discovery.
  • It was successful and it has completed many successful missions.
  • Ten years after the Challenger disaster, two pieces of the space shuttle washed up on shore in Florida.


"The crew of the space shuttle Challenger honored us by the manner in which they lived their lives. We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for their journey and waved goodbye and 'slipped the surly bonds of earth' to 'touch the face of God.' " - Ronald Reagan, January 28, 1986

"As we reflect back upon the tragic loss of Challenger and her brave crew of heroes who were aboard that fateful day, I am reminded that they truly represented the best of us, as they climbed aloft on a plume of propellant gasses, reaching for the stars, to inspire us who were Earthbound."- Buzz Aldrin

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