REMEMBERING STS-51-L CHALLENGER AND CREW…….

REMEMBERING STS-51-L CHALLENGER AND CREW…….

REMEMBERING STS-51-L CHALLENGER AND CREW…….

Space Shuttle Challenger (Mission STS-51-L); January 28, 1986. (Photo credit: NASA)

“I cannot join the space program and restart my life as an astronaut, but this opportunity to connect my abilities as an educator with my interests in history and space is a unique opportunity to fulfill my early fantasies.”
-Christa McAuliffe

CREW, clockwise from top-left.
Ellison Onizuka: Air Force Veteran and first Asian American in space as a member of STS-51-C. He held a Masters in Aerospace Engineering from U Colorado at Boulder.

Christa McAuliffe: Winner of the teacher in space contest from Concord NH (My home). Bachelors in Education and History from Framingham State College and a Master of Arts degree from Bowie State University.

Gregory Jarvis: Air Force veteran with a Masters in Electrical Engineering from Northeastern University, Boston MA. This was to be his first space flight.

Judith Resnik: PHD in Electrical Engineering from U Maryland and Veteran of Shuttle Mission STS-41-D.

Ronald McNair: Physicist from MIT, Black Belt Karate instructor and Veteran of STS-41-B whose mission was delivery of two Hughes 376 communication satellites as well as first use of the Manned Maneuvering Unit and first use of the Canada Arm which was operated by McNair himself.

Dick Scobee: Veteran of the AirForce, Aerospace research pilot, BS in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Arizona and Shuttle Mission STS-41-C.

Michael Smith: NAVY Pilot, and Flight Instructor. He attended US Naval Post-Grad at Monterey CA. This was to be his 1st space flight.

“The crew of the space shuttle Challenger honored us by the manner in which they lived their lives. We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for their journey and waved goodbye and “slipped the surly bonds of earth” to “touch the face of God.”
Thank you.
– Ronald Regan in his address to the nation.

STS-51-L primary mission payload was the second of NASA’s Tracking and Data Relay, (TDRS) satellites (which ironically is what NASA is launched last week in TDRS-L). Working in concert with the first Tracking and Data Relay satellite the two were expected to provide 85 percent real time coverage of each orbit to spacecraft. Challenger Pilot Michael Smith said, “It will give us almost global coverage for Shuttle missions of the future. That’s going to be a big improvement not only for the shuttle, but also for the space station when it gets up later on.” The satellite was scheduled to be deployed on the first day of the flight.

The mission was also to include upwards of 40 hours of Halley’s Comet observations. Goddard Space Flight Center and the University of Colorado’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics had produced a low-cost spacecraft that could measure the ultraviolet spectrum of comet Halley when it was too close to the sun for other observatories to do so. The project, named Spartan-Halley, would help scientists determine how fast water is broken down by sunlight. The data was to be saved on what was then a very robust 500 megabytes of storage.

Launching from Launch Pad 39-B this was the first launch of a Space Shuttle from that launch pad as it had not been used since the Apollo-Soyuz missions.

January 28, 1986 Space Shuttle Challenger lifted off from Kennedy Space Center FL from Launch Pad 39-B. At 11:39 EST (16:39 UTC) 73 seconds after liftoff while in view of all onlookers, visitors and those such as myself (who was in 3rd grade) watching on television, an O-Ring on the right Solid Rocket Booster (SRB) experienced a catastrophic failure and the Shuttle exploded……..All seven crew members were lost.

Leading up to the launch there were numerous delays and setbacks for different reasons. The ensuing Rogers Commission, appointed by Ronald Regan and aided by the great Richard Feynman, Neil Armstrong, Sally Ride and Chuck Yeager came to the conclusion that the O-Ring failed due to the extreme cold they were experiencing during that particular week. The rubber ring lost its elasticity and became brittle allowing the extremely hot gasses (5000deg F) to escape through the failed joint and then enter into the External Fuel Tank. Even more, it was determined that the Morton Thiokol, NASA decision making process as well as the culture at the time had also been a major cause as they had known about and overlooked the KNOWN risks and did not heed the warning signs. Some of those signs included evidence of the same problem happening on a previous fight but not to the same magnitude.

After the accident, NASA refrained from sending astronauts into space for more than two years as it redesigned a number of the shuttle’s features. Flights began again in September 1988 with the successful launching of Space Shuttle Discovery. There would not be another major issue for almost two decades……

Space Shuttle Challenger (OV-099), the second Space Shuttle to fly. It was also only supposed to be a test article as the Test Shuttle Enterprise (OV-101) was supposed to be re-fitted for flight and come into service as the second orbiter. As design changes occurred along the way it was determined that then, Structural Test Article (STA-099) Challenger would be fitted for flight and its designation changed to reflect that. Challenger was named after HMS Challenger, a British Corvette that was the command ship for the Challenger Expedition, a pioneering global marine research expedition undertaken from 1872 through 1876. The Apollo 17 Lunar Module that touched down on the Moon in 1972 and the famous Challenger Deep was also named after HMS Challenger. Space Shuttle Challengers remains now lay entombed at the bottom of a retired Minuteman missile silo at Launch Complex 31B at Cape Canaveral.

“I touch the future. I teach.”
-Christa McAuliffe

GODSPEED Challenger……..RIP.

GREAT link to the NASA History Office regarding the Challenger disaster: http://history.nasa.gov/sts51l.html

SpaceFlightNow . Com Timeline of events: http://spaceflightnow.com/challenger/timeline/

NASA History information on the crew: http://history.nasa.gov/Biographies/challenger.html

McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center (Concord NH): http://www.starhop.com/

Richard Feynman Rogers Commission Appendix: http://science.ksc.nasa.gov/shuttle/missions/51-l/docs/rogers-commission/Appendix-F.txt

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