I was in my final semester of high school. I remember Principal Burch came over the loudspeaker to announce that the Challenger “blew up on the pad,” which I knew wasn’t true because I was watching a TV… probably in the library. Years later, I was teaching an advanced technical writing class, and we studied the documents related to the Challenger loss. The students were supposed to read the introduction to Diane Vaughan’s book, The Challenger Launch Decision, on another tragic day — September 11, 2001. (On the 12th, we didn’t end up talking about the reading that much.)
Challenger was destroyed at 11:39:13 am Eastern Standard Time on January 28, 1986. It broke up mid-flight in the second minute of its tenth mission. The cause was ultimately found to be the failure of an O-ring seal on the right solid-fuel rocket booster (SRB). Its failure was due to a variety of factors, including unusually low temperatures prior to lift off.
As the shuttle began its ascent, a plume of flame began escaping through the booster rocket’s faulty seal. This started to heat the shuttle’s external fuel tank and the SRB’s aft attachment strut. Eventually this process caused a catastrophic structural failure that led to the rapid explosive release of hydrogen and oxygen from the fuel tanks. This ruptured Challenger’s reaction control system resulting in the burning of its hypergolic propellants. This placed extreme aerodynamic load on the Orbiter because it was traveling at about Mach 1.92. As the structural integrity began to fail due to the stress, Challenger broke up. All seven crew members were killed. —Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.