The month of January hasn’t exactly been kind for the United States space program. Way back on January 27, 1967 a fire in the Apollo 1 capsule during a routine test killed three astronauts, Virgil “Gus” Grissom, Edward White II, and Roger Chaffee. Just as the cabin was filled with pure oxygen, a problem in the electrical system sparked a fire which spread devastatingly fast. The crew died of smoke inhalation.
Nineteen years later, almost to the day, the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded less than two minutes into its mission, causing the deaths of its seven astronauts: Greg Jarvis, Christa McAuliffe, Ronald McNair, Ellison Onizuka, Judith Resnik, Michael J. Smith, and Dick Scobee. The disaster was caused when an O-ring failed on one of the solid rocket boosters.
On February 1, 2003, another shuttle and its crew were destroyed when Columbia re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere after a two-week mission. At the time of lift-off, a piece of insulating foam had broken away from the external tank and struck the orbiter’s left wing, which ultimately resulted in the breaking apart of the shuttle. The astronauts who died were Rick D. Husband, William McCool, Michael P. Anderson, David M. Brown, Kalpana Chawla, Laurel B. Clark, and Ilan Ramon.
Today, on this thirty-third anniversary, I tell the story of the Challenger tragedy.
Challenger Explosion (Courtesy of Pixabay)