Picture of the Day: January 28

The Loss of the Space Shuttle Challenger
On January 28, 1986, 73 seconds into its 10th launch, Americans watched in horror as the space shuttle Challenger (STS-51L) exploded in midair, killing its crew of seven–Navy pilot Michael J. Smith, Commander Francis Scobee and mission specialist Ronald McNair, front row; mission specialist Ellison Onizuka, first teacher in space Christa McAuliffe, payload specialist Gregory Jarvis and mission specialist Judith Resnik, back row.

President Ronald Reagan spoke to the nation from the Oval Office that afternoon, explaining the tragedy to the nation’s schoolchildren: ‘The future doesn’t belong to the fainthearted. It belongs to the brave…. 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 good-bye and ‘slipped the surly bonds of earth to touch the face of God.”

Space shuttle flights were suspended until 1988. An independent U.S. commission blamed the disaster on unusually cold temperatures that morning and the failure of the O-rings, a set of gaskets in the rocket boosters.

Image: NASA

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