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Your Letters Helped Challenger Shuttle Engineer Shed 30 Years Of Guilt

On Jan. 27, 1986, the former engineer for shuttle contractor Morton Thiokol had joined four colleagues in trying to keep Challenger grounded. They argued for hours that the launch the next morning would be the coldest ever. Freezing temperatures, their data showed, stiffened rubber O-rings that keep burning rocket fuel from leaking out of the joints in the shuttle’s boosters. But NASA officials rejected that data, and Thiokol executives overruled…


Thirty Years Ago, the Challenger Crew Plunged Alive and Aware to Their Deaths

The Challenger made it through the spectacular eruption of its external fuel tank with its cabin more or less intact. Rather than being carried to Heaven in an instant, the crippled vessel kept sailing upward for another three miles before its momentum gave out, then plunged 12 miles to the ocean. The crew was, in all likelihood, conscious for the full two and a half minutes until it hit the…

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Challenger Disaster: 30 Years

I was a high school senior, watching on the TV in the library. The Space Shuttle Challenger disaster occurred on January 28, 1986, when the NASA Space Shuttle orbiter Challenger (OV-099) (mission STS-51-L) broke apart 73 seconds into its flight, leading to the deaths of its seven crew members, which included five NASA astronauts and two Payload Specialists. The spacecraft disintegrated over the Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of Cape…

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Venus Flytraps Are Even Creepier Than We Thought

I clicked for the topic, but it was the writing that captured me. The first impulse sets a secret timer, and what the fly does in the next 20 seconds will determine its fate. If it avoids the hairs, it will live. If it bumps a second one, it sets off another electrical impulse, which raises the trap’s calcium levels above a critical threshold. The plant responds by sending water into…


Is Breakfast Necessary?

The idea that early eating is essential makes perfect sense for farm laborers and small children. Whether it matters for normal, sedentary adults is a different question. Many—if not most—studies demonstrating that breakfast eaters are healthier and manage weight better than non-breakfast eaters were sponsored by Kellogg or other breakfast cereal companies whose businesses depend on people believing that breakfast means ready-to-eat cereal.  Independently funded studies tend to show that any…


Why won’t the University of Maryland talk about the chocolate milk/concussion study it was so eager to promote?

I took note of this University of Maryland chocolate milk press release while prepping a freshman writing class. What a PR disaster. Here’s an update: University of Maryland issue multiple news releases about a health research project… and then decline to talk about it? That’s just one of the questions piling up about research involving high school football players, concussions and a brand of chocolate milk. […] While the University of…

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NASA Releases New Earthrise Image

NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) recently captured a unique view of Earth from the spacecraft’s vantage point in orbit around the moon. “The image is simply stunning,” said Noah Petro, Deputy Project Scientist for LRO at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “The image of the Earth evokes the famous ‘Blue Marble’ image taken by Astronaut Harrison Schmitt during Apollo 17, 43 years ago, which also showed Africa prominently in the picture.” In this composite image…