28 January 1986, 11:38:00 a.m. (EST): The Space Shuttle Challenger (OV-99) lifted off from Launch Complex 39B at the Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida, on Mission STS-51L.
At liftoff, an O-ring seal between segments of the right Solid Rocket Booster (SRB) began leaking. Superheated gases breached the seal and began to burn laterally.
The venting rocket exhaust burned through the SRB attachment strut and into the liquid hydrogen tank in the lower section of the External Tank. The aft portion of the liquid hydrogen tank failed and drove the tank vertically upward into the liquid oxygen tank. Both tanks ruptured and the propellants detonated.
1 minute, 13 seconds after liftoff, Challenger was accelerating through Mach 1.62 (1,069 miles per hour, 1,720 kilometers per hour) at approximately 46,000 feet (14,020 meters) when the explosion of the external tank caused the space shuttle to suddenly veer away from its flight path. The shuttle was subjected to aerodynamic forces far beyond its design limits and it was torn apart.
The crew cabin, with its seven astronauts aboard, broke away from the disintegrating shuttle assembly and continued upward for another 25 seconds to approximately 65,000 feet (19,080 meters), then began a long fall to the ocean below.
2 minutes 45 seconds after the explosion, the cabin impacted the surface of the Atlantic Ocean at 207 miles per hour (333 kilometers per hour). The entire crew was killed.
I watched this terrible tragedy as it happened, live on television. I will never forget.
AD ASTRA PER ASPERA
© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes
6 thoughts on “28 January 1986, 16:39:13 UTC, T+1:13.162”
I was in basic training in the US Army and the drill sergeants assemble us in front of a TV to hear the news that the space shuttle had blown up on take off. We were given the day off to honor the astronauts.
Was in Tech. School in Amarillo AFB Texas taking last block test before graduation. Was given rest of day and weekend off in honor of astronauts
The ambient temperature was out of range for a safe launch, management was told this by the engineers. Management launched anyway.
Will never EVER forgive nasa for that bit of pandering …
You are NOT alone Sir.
That disaster marked nasa as a political organization ending, for the most part, their supremacy as an engineering master.
I knew a fair number of the original NASA people and a finer and more competent group will probably never be seen again.
I was watching the launch on TV in my dorm room. I only had one more class that day so I skipped it.
I was living there in Titusville and watched the launch and the following disaster from my backyard. I ran inside a quickly inserted a VHS tape into the recorded and got 6 hours of continuous news coverage. The shock to the nation was as immense as it was unexpected in a nation that become almost bored by the whole space programs.
Yes, a VHS tape.
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