Posts Tagged ‘Challenger Disaster’

I saw in the paper this morning that today marks the 27th anniversay of the Challenger Space Shuttle disaster, which happened on the 28th of January 1986. 1986 was before the era of 24-hour news, but I vividly remember mid-afternoon programmes being interrupted to bring this sad news, and to show the horrific footage of Challenger exploding a few minutes into launch on that cold Floridian January day.

The explosion of the Challenger Space Shuttle on launch in January 1986 shocked the World.

The explosion of the Challenger Space Shuttle on launch in January 1986 shocked the World.

This is a video of the explosion

In 1967 all 3 Apollo 1 astronauts were killed in a fire in the command module during final testing for launch, but Challenger was the first time NASA had suffered the loss of astronauts during a mission. In the subsequent Presidential enquiry (headed by Bill Rogers, a former US Secretary of State during Nixon‘s administration) many NASA management mistakes were uncovered, and the cause of the accident was traced to O-rings which failed to prevent pressurised hot gas from escaping, which was the cause of the explosion. In a dramatic demonstration of the O-rings’ inability to cope with cold temperatures, the celebrated Nobel Prize-winning Physicist Richard Feynman illustrated on TV how this failure would occur. Here is a video where Feynman summarises his experiences of working on this investigation.

Sadly, the Challenger disaster was not the last in the Space Shuttle program. On the 1st of February, as it was re-entering the atmosphere at the end of a successful mission, the Space Shuttle Columbia burnt up in the atmosphere, again leading to the loss of all 7 astronauts on board. People often forget how dangerous an activity going into space is.

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