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Shortly before noon on this day 25 years ago, the Challenger space shuttle was getting ready to lift off and make history. A Concord, New Hampshire school teacher, Christa McAuliffe, was on board and would have been the first teacher in NASA history to go to space. With seven astronauts ready to launch into space, the Challenger took off and 73 seconds later, disaster struck. The craft burst into flames to the horror of the entire nation killing all seven crew members.
Read on for more on the Challenger explosion!
The Challenger explosion was caused by a malfunction with one of the shuttle’s rocket boosters ending Christa McAuliffe’s dream. She was chosen by NASA from a pool of 11,000 applicants and spent one year training for her space mission in Houston. When asked on the application about her motivations for wanting to travel to space, she wrote about her childhood and watching the Mercury launches and Apollo moon walks:
I watched the Space Age being born, I would like to participate…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.
On the night of the disaster, President Ronald Reagan had been scheduled to give his annual State of the Union Address, but postponed it in light of the Challenger explosion. He addressed the nation and finished with the following statement, according to Wikipedia, which is a quote from the poem High Flight by John Gillespie Magee, Jr.:
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.’