Challenger Remembered – Obviously a Major Malfunction
On January 28, 1986, at 11:38 am EST against the backdrop of a clear blue Florida sky, the Space Shuttle Challenger lifted off Pad 39B at Kennedy Space Center. 73 short seconds later the entire crew of seven was lost in an explosion which ripped the craft apart.
Despite the warnings of engineers not to launch in freezing temperatures, NASA management chose to launch Space Shuttle Challenger. The result was the loss of 7 astronauts in a horrific explosion 73 seconds later when flames from a solid rocket booster leak from a cracked o-ring and burned through the main fuel tank.
The explosion was sudden, totally unexpected and catastrophic. The Houston mission control public address announcer was still reciting flight statistics as viewers of the NASA video feed around the world were watching the shuttle disintegrate: “Velocity 2,900 feet/second, Altitude 9 nautical miles, Downrange 7 nautical miles”.
Amongst those watching were a large number of school children. This flight, designated STS-51-L by NASA, was being hailed for the fact that one of the crew members Christina McAuliffe, a school teacher from Concord, New Hampshire, was to become the first teacher in space. She had been chosen to join the crew and was preparing to present the first ever “class from space”.
The video below is taken from the original NASA and Kennedy Space Center video feeds, and was part of a Discovery Channel presentation. It shows the launch of the shuttle, its subsequent destruction and various views of the debris falling into the Atlantic Ocean.
It is in this clip that only a while after the realisation of the scale of the disaster sinks in, the announcer ends the initial feed broadcast (at around the 2:00 minute mark) with the memorable words:
“Flight controllers here looking very carefully at the situation. Obviously a major malfunction.”