29 October, 2013
The Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster
The Space Shuttle Challenger exploded in a ball of fire less than two minutes of launching resulting from a gas tank leakage. The disaster was broadcast live on broad day light news stations across the nation. The Challenger, as it is popularly known among all other space shuttles was the first to explode. America was terrified by the horrible incident as it was the first time US astronauts had died in a space shuttle flight. This tragic event hit the news around the world leading to a memorial day: January 28, 1986 remembering the death of seven crew members who lost lives on their journey to space for the betterment of space studies. The Challenger split apart from the boosters which carried it. The Challenger had a teacher on board, making it more mournful. A special committee was set up by President Reagan to investigate the calamity. The Challenger disaster was the worst and most tragic disaster that the US space program has ever experienced (Broad).
Before the Challenger disaster, flights to space were considered to be 90% safe; had a low risk of death. NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) had already deployed the Challenger for nine missions. It was one of the four space shuttles that NASA had. It is known to have flown 25,803,939 miles and had deployed ten satellites. Challenger launched on her maiden voyage, STS-6, on April 4, 1983. That mission saw the first spacewalk of the Space Asare 2
program, as well as the deployment of the first satellite in the tracking and data relay system constellation. The Challenger was scheduled for fifteen flights in 1986, which would have been the most ambitious in the history of the shuttle program. The Challenger was designed and manufactured by Rockwell international as they were awarded the contract. The model name for the Challenger was OV-99; a new design just as ordered by NASA. The Challenger was a lightweight orbiter which was built in order to attain maximum speed in an orbiter (space shuttle). Since NASA did not have advanced technology at that time which had the capability to predict whether the shuttle could withstand pressure and heat, it had to undergo a year of test against high pressure and heat. It passed all the tests and it was approved for various missions. The Design however, had a fault which was unidentified and it was approved for a various missions. The O-ring which was an insulator which held the joints of one of the boosters on the external fuel tank was not intact. Nobody could explain why the fault was not identified since the shuttle was tested so many times and had already flown nine missions. The tragedy was not inevitable but unexpected (Ryba).
Although the Challenger had completed numerous missions, it was carefully examined before it was scheduled for its tenth mission. The original schedule for the tenth mission was delayed three days when one of its fire detectors failed in a test. The launch was again delayed three hours due to extreme weather conditions. These were all warnings that the NASA had to pay attention to. The launch time was due and all eyes were fixed on the space shuttle; the Challenger had massive media attention having Mrs. Christa McAullife- who would have been Asare 3
the first teacher in space. The NASA lost contact with the shuttle and the next thing was a huge explosion leaving the shuttle in pieces. The shuttle burst into flames seventy-four seconds after launch. The remaining of the orbiter smashed into the Atlantic Ocean at a top speed as it dropped. NASA reported the orbiter had declined the original course by twenty-nine degrees (Ryba).
The tragic event lead America in sorrow. NASA rescue team found the bodies of seven crew members who never reach outer space but yet still were legends. Hundreds of thousands of students around the US gathered to honor the late teacher who was to lecture them in space. Teachers, Educational officers as well as parents also gathered in the same accord. This shocking news hit the media around the world as it was the first time this misfortune had happened to America. The disaster went viral. A memorial day was set for the “Legends of space” as it was named. The US government responded to the disaster by setting a body in the NASA to investigate the disaster thoroughly and to produce adequate solutions. President Reagan being the President that time, ordered for the formation of the committee which was headed by former secretary of state William Rogers and included Neil Armstrong. Laws governing the NASA were completely altered. Special and restrictive laws were put in place to prevent the disaster from happening again. The disaster changed the face of the NASA space program (McDonald).
The space shuttle Challenger disaster was the worst dramatic misfortune which was unexpected, but yet, hugely affected the NASA space program and the USA in general. It is the third famous event following the first Moonwalk by Neil Armstrong and the Columbia disaster. Asare 4
Broad, William, J.” The Space Shuttle Disaster”. NewYorkTimes.com The New York Times. 2011. Web. 25 October, 2013 McDonald , Allan, J. “Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster”. Aerospace.net. Vic Spathopoulos. 15 August, 2013. Web. 29 October, 2013. Ryba, Jeanne. “Space Shuttle Challenger”.Nasa.gov. NASA. 12 April, 2013. Web. 29 October, 2013.