The Space Shuttle Challenger disaster occurred on January 28, 1986, when Space Shuttle Challenger broke apart 73 seconds into its flight, leading to the deaths of its seven crew members. The spacecraft disintegrated over the Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of central Florida, United States, at 11:39 a.m. EST (16:39 UTC).
Disintegration of the entire vehicle began after an O-ring seal in its right solid rocket booster (SRB) failed at liftoff. The O-ring failure caused a breach in the SRB joint it sealed, allowing pressurized hot gas from within the solid rocket motor to reach the outside and impinge upon the adjacent SRB attachment hardware and external fuel tank. This led to the separation of the right-hand SRB's aft attachment and the structural failure of the external tank. Aerodynamic forces promptly broke up the orbiter.
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Where were you on that fateful day? For me, it was on the first day of my second duty assignment at the caverns. I had worked here from June of 1971 to January 1972, then departed to attend Introduction to Park Service Operations, a six week course at the Horace Albright Training Academy at Grand Canyon National Park.
After I graduated, my wife and I departed to Washington D.C. for the first of several NPS assignments over the next nearly 15 years. On January 28, my first day here as a GS-7 crew supervisor, I was a guest at the regularly scheduled park staff meeting at the park headquarters in town. Suddenly, a woman employee came into the room to notify everyone of the horrifying and unbelievable news about the Spaceship Challenger and the ill-fated astronauts that almost everyone felt like they new from the massive pre-launch television publicity, a quarter of a century ago.
Retired Caverns Employee