January 28th, 1986, was the coldest day that NASA had ever attempted to launch a manned spacecraft; at 36 degrees Fahrenheit, it was 15 degrees colder than any previous launch temperature. Although lift-off time for the Challenger flight 51-L had been delayed twice that morning, all operations and systems seemed to be under control. An "ice" team had been sent to the launch pad at 1:30 a.m. and again at 8:45 a.m., and although there was some build-up, ice was cleared as a concern. Other weather conditions were cleared by NASA staff at Cape Canaveral through the use of weather balloons and also at the emergency landing site in Dakar, Senegal, Africa. The seven member crew arrived at the launch pad in the astronauts' van shortly after 8:00 and were all strapped into their seats by 8:36 a.m. "Three, two, one " [stated mission control]. "Roger. Go with the throttle up," shuttle commander Dick Scobee radioed. 73 seconds later, millions of people across the nation watched the awful explosion spread across their television screens and realized that something had gone wrong before they heard the voice of mission control: "Obviously a major malfunction." Rather than delivering the State of the Union address that evening as scheduled,... [continues]
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