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Challenger Disaster Explosion

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Challenger Disaster

It was on January 28, 1986 at 11:38 A.M. that the shuttle Challenger, NASA flight 51-L, the twenty-fifth shuttle flight, took off. It was the "Teacher in Space" mission. At lift-off, the temperature at ground level was 36o Fahrenheit, which was 15o Fahrenheit cooler than any previous launch by NASA. It was the Challenger's tenth flight. Take-off had been delayed several times. Finally the shuttle had taken off. The shuttle had climbed high in the sky thirty-five seconds after take-off, and it was getting hit by strong winds. The on board computers were making continuous adjustments so the shuttle would stay on course. About eight miles in the air, about seventy-two seconds after take-off, people watched in fear and horror as the shuttle was engulfed by a huge fire ball. All the crew members were killed instantly.

Engineers and scientists began trying to find what went wrong almost right away. They studied the film of the take-off. When they studied the film, they noticed a small jet of flame coming from inside the casing for one of the rocket boosters. The flame got bigger and bigger. It started to touch a strut that connected the booster to the big fuel tank attached to the space shuttle. About two or three seconds later, hydrogen began leaking from the gigantic fuel tank. About seventy-two seconds after take-off, the hydrogen caught on fire and the booster swung around. That punctured the fuel tank, which caused a big explosion.

Even though people knew what had happened, they didn't know why it had happened. Gradually people found the answer. Here's why it happened: the rocket booster's casing was made in differentsections. These sections were attached to each other and sealed together with o-rings-rubber rings. The o-rings were held in their places by the pressure of the hot gasses, which were from the rocket booster after it was ignited. On previous missions of the Challenger, the o-rings were found to be worn away by the hot gasses. The o-rings had been tested and the results had shown that the o-rings were a lot more likely to fail in cold or freezing weather. That was what happened on the cold morning of January 28, 1986.

The people on board the shuttle on January 28, 1986 were Lieutenant Ellison Onizuka, an Air Force Officer; Commander Michael Smith, a Navy officer; Christa McAuliffe, a high-school teacher in New Hampshire; Dick Scobe, a Navy officer; Greg Jarvis, an engineer; Judy Resnik, an astronaut; and Ronald McNair, an astronaut.

Christa McAuliffe was born September 2, 1948 in Boston, Massachusetts. She was a high-school teacher in New Hampshire, as stated earlier. She was chosen out of 11,000 people to be the first civilian astronaut. She had begun teaching in 1970. She couldn't believe that she was actually going to get to go to space in the shuttle. She was going to teach lessons to kids all across the Untied States, in space, by way of satellite.

Ron McNair was born October 21, 1950 in Lake

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