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The Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster
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The Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster
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Hello, my name's David Wilson. I'm a teacher of U.S. and World History, here today for About.com, and in today's topic, we're going to be taking a look at the disaster of the Space Shuttle Challenger Mission.During the years of the Apollo Program, the push came for NASA to design and build a reusable space vehicle. In 1976 NASA unveiled to the world the first space shuttle, which was a reusable space vehicle. The shuttle was made up of four main pieces: two solid rocket boosters, a giant fuel tank, and the shuttle orbiter itself. The boosters and fuel tank would detach away from the shuttle at a certain altitude, and were not recoverable. The shuttle itself would orbit the Earth until its mission was complete and then return, flying back and landing on a runway, as would an airplane.The first shuttle to be launched into space was Columbia in 1981. The Challenger, the second shuttle in NASA's fleet, launched two years later, and would complete nine successful voyages before the ill-fated launch on January 28, 1986. The Challenger was plagued with problems from the outset on the mission STS 51L. It suffered numerous delays relating to everything from weather to technical problems.Further compounding the public relations setbacks was the fact that this particularly anticipated mission was the first to feature an ordinary citizen in space, 37-year-old high school Social Studies teacher Christa McAuliffe. The was the kickoff of NASA's new Teacher in Space Program, and it had done a great deal to rekindle public interest in what had begun to be seen by the general public as a routine endeavor.After six days worth of delays, the pressure was on for NASA to get the shuttle launched. The morning of January 28th was uncommonly cold for the Florida launchpad, with temperatures dipping below freezing. Engineers warned their superiors that the cold weather could present serious problems for the O-ring seals on the solid rocket boosters. Unfortunately, these warnings were not enough to scratch the launch.Challenger lifted off at 11:38 a.m. 73 seconds after lift off, and with a live audience watching on-site and around the country on television, Space Shuttle Challenger exploded. A massive ball of smoke and fire filled the sky. Tentacles of smoke instantly began to branch out in all directions as pieces of the destroyed shuttle started to rain down on the Atlantic Ocean. All seven members of the crew, including the teacher McAuliffe, were killed. The Challenger disaster led to a comprehensive investigation of what went wrong, and what steps needed to be taken in order to improve safety in future shuttle missions. After a two-year hiatus, filled with investigation and redesign, NASA relaunched the shuttle program as it successfully sent Shuttle Discovery into space.Thanks for watching. To learn more, visit us on the web at About.com.
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