On this day in history, Jan. 28, 1986, the space shuttle Challenger — scheduled for a routine launch from Cape Canaveral in Florida — exploded after just 73 seconds in flight, killing all seven Americans on board.
The disaster shocked the nation — and led to an immediate pause in the space shuttle program.
The cause of the disaster was found to be the failure of the primary and secondary redundant O-ring seals in a joint in the shuttle’s right solid rocket booster (SRB).
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While the mission on that fateful day in 1986 was supposed to be like any other routine mission, unusually cold temperatures caused the external tank to explode seconds into takeoff — causing the orbiter to disintegrate and the spacecraft to explode, according to NASA.
In addition to highly experienced astronauts, the Challenger carried a special passenger on board: teacher Christa McAuliffe.
She was a social studies teacher from Concord, New Hampshire, chosen from among 10,000 others who applied to be the first private citizen in space, according to Britannica.
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In her application, McAuliffe said she would keep a journal about her experience — and would include sections about her training, the flight experience and her feelings about returning to Earth.
One of the reasons McAuliffe was chosen, apparently, was her t