An Oral History Of The Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster

Thirty years ago today, January 28, 1986, the world watched as the space shuttle Challenger took off from Cape Canaveral in Florida, after several delays, on a mission that included the first Teacher in Space. The flight crew was the most diverse that NASA had ever deployed: two women, an African American, an Asian American, a Jewish American, both scientists and test pilots, military and civilian. The flight lasted 73 seconds, the the shuttle disintegrated as we watched on TV. All seven crew members were lost.

That was the day we were all reminded that while space flight may have become routine, it still wasn’t without risk. Popular Mechanics interviewed more than two dozen people who were involved in the Challenger launch in some way: NASA employees, contractors, astronauts, journalists, family members, investigators, and observers, to assemble an oral history of what happened that day and the aftermath.

See more pictures of the Challenger mission, and the biographies of each astronaut.

(Image credit: NASA)

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