USS Challenger Explodes

The Space Shuttle Challenger moments after it exploded above Cape Canveral on January 28, 1986
The Space Shuttle Challenger moments after it exploded above Cape Canveral on January 28, 1986

Historical Context

73 seconds into its history-making flight, the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded in midair, killing all seven astronauts below as a crowd of people watched and many more did so on television.

The Challenger was special as among its crew was Christa McAuliffe, who was to become the first teacher in space. Some 17% of Americans were watching the broadcast live, and her parents were in the crowd at Cape Canaveral when the ill-fated takeoff happened.

A 32-month hiatus in the Shuttle program resulted, as did lengthy investigations into the cause, determined to be a failure of O-ring seals on the rocket's boosters caused by cold weather on the morning of the launch.

Photo Info


Photographer: Kennedy Space Center
Date taken: January 28, 1986
Location taken: Cape Canaveral, Florida, USA

Source: Wikimedia Commons/NASA

Related Events

  • 1986-01-28 Space Shuttle Challenger explodes 73 seconds after liftoff from Cape Canaveral, with all 7 crew members killed, including Christa McAuliffe who was to be the first teacher in space


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