On this day in 1986 we all watched how the Space Shuttle Challenger was ripped apart by an explosion 73 seconds into it’s flight. The event was seen live on TV in many countries and for that brief point in time a large portion of the world was left speechless.
Challenger was really a wake-up call to NASA about complacency and the result that the Space Shuttle fleet was grounded for almost three years while the investigation, hearings, engineering redesign of the solid rocket boosters, and other behind-the-scenes technical and management reviews, changes, and preparations were taking place.
The human cost was great too. Seven crew members lost their lives in the disaster.
The cause of the disaster is attributed to the failure of O-ring seals used in the solid rocket boosters (SRB) joint that were not designed to handle the unusually cold conditions that existed at this launch. The seals’ failure caused a breach in the SRB joint, allowing pressurized burning gas from within the solid rocket motor to reach the outside and impinge upon the adjacent SRB aft field joint attachment hardware and external fuel tank. This led to the separation of the right-hand SRB’s aft field joint attachment and the structural failure of the external tank. Aerodynamic forces broke up the orbiter. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_Shuttle_Challenger_disaster)
DRW © 2020. Created 22/05/2020.
Image of Challenger Explosion attributed to Kennedy Space Center / Public domain. This image or video was catalogued by one of the centers of the United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) under Photo ID: GPN-2004-00012 and Alternate ID: 86-HC-220.
Crew photograph retrieved from https://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/imagegallery/image_feature_256.html
Tribute photograph retrieved from https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/shuttle/flyout/multimedia/challenger/2010-07-29.html.