35 Years Ago Today: The 1986 Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster
Decades before 911, as a second grader, I witnessed live, along with the rest of the country, the Space Shuttle Challenger explosion.
Disaster barely defines the events of that fateful day 35 years ago.
It was the an era before smartphones, the internet and social media. I was sitting in my class of some 30 students in Sedalia, Missouri. The date was January 28th, 1986. My teacher rolled a 30-inch television into the front of the classroom. My entire school was excited for the launch of the Space Shuttle Challenger, which was carrying what would have been the first teacher in space, Christa McAuliffe. Like most of the American population, we had all been following her story very closely on the news.
73 seconds into the launch, Challenger erupted into flames. The explosion was said to be a result of a rocket booster failure which ignited the fuel tank.
At the time, disasters of this magnitude were rarely seen on television, let alone live. It was an experience that even 35 years later, still sticks with me.
Wikipedia states of the incident:
Approximately 17 percent of the US population witnessed the launch on live television broadcast because of the presence of high school teacher Christa McAuliffe, who would have been the first teacher in space. Media coverage of the accident was extensive; one study reported that 85 percent of Americans surveyed had heard the news within an hour of the accident. The Challenger disaster has been used as a case study in many discussions of engineering safety and workplace ethics.
Former President Donald Trump signed and act on October 9th, 2019 for the Department of Treasury to issue not more than 350,000 one dollar ($1) silver coins in commemoration of Christa McAuliffe. The coins will be minted this year (2021), to commemorate the 35th anniversary of the tragedy.