On this day 34 years ago, NASA’s space shuttle Challenger broke apart during launch, claiming the lives of its seven crew members, including one civilian teacher.
The tragedy changed the course of NASA’s future.
Challenger left an influential legacy of accomplishments in space.
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On the morning of January 28, 1986, seven crew members were killed when the space shuttle Challenger broke apart a little over a minute after it launched.
Those killed included five NASA astronauts, one payload specialist, and a civilian schoolteacher.
This mission was Challenger’s 10th, but the shuttle suffered an engine failure because of a design flaw in its seal. A joint in one of the rocket boosters failed at liftoff and the external fuel tank collapsed, leading to the demise of the vehicle.
Challenger was the second shuttle to reach space, which it did first in April 1983. It also sent the first African-American astronaut into space, completed the first in-flight capture and repair of a satellite, and launched the first US woman in space.
The disaster marked a turning point for NASA. An investigation after the explosion found that many engineers and astronauts believed NASA was pushing its programs forward at breakneck speed, without sufficient funding or testing. NASA added more internal checks and processes after the event to prevent similar tragedies.
The space agency also stopped sending civilians on potentially dangerous space-shuttle missions.
These photos reveal the many missions of Challenger and its tragic end.
NASA unveiled Challenger to the public in 1982.