Space Shuttle Challenger

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Template:Space Shuttles Space Shuttle Challenger (NASA Orbiter Vehicle Designation: OV-099) was NASA's second Space Shuttle orbiter to be put into service, after Columbia. Its maiden voyage was on April 4, 1983, and it made eight further round trips to low earth orbit before exploding 73 seconds into the launch of its tenth mission, on January 28, 1986. (For more on the Challenger disaster, see STS-51-L.) It would later be replaced by the space shuttle Endeavour, which would be launched six years after the 51-L disaster.

Challenger was constructed using a body frame (STA-099) that had initially been built as a test article. STA-099 had not been meant for spaceflight, but NASA discovered that recycling it would be cheaper than refitting the test shuttle Enterprise (OV-101) to be spaceworthy, as originally planned.

Challenger is one of two space shuttles destroyed in an accident during a mission, the other being Columbia. The collected debris of the vessel are currently stored in decommissioned missile silos at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. From time to time, further pieces of debris from the orbiter wash up on the Florida coast. When this happens, they are collected and transported to the silos for storage.


Challenger's rollout from Orbiter Processing Facility (OPF) to the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB). Photo courtesy of NASA
File:Challenger flight 51-l crew.jpg
The crew of the final, ill-fated flight of the Challenger.

Space Shuttle Challenger flew 10 flights, spent 62.41 days in space, completed 995 orbits, and flew 25,803,940 miles (it is unknown to this editor whether these are nautical or statute miles; 41,527,416 km if statute) in total, including its final mission.

Date Designation Notes
1983 April 4 STS-6 Deployed TDRS-1.

First spacewalk during a space shuttle mission.

1983 June 18 STS-7 Sally Ride becomes first American woman in space.

Deployed 2 communications satellites.

1983 August 30 STS-8 Guion Bluford becomes first African-American in space

First shuttle night launch and night landing.
Deployed Insat-1B.

1984 February 3 STS-41-B First untethered spacewalk.

Deployed 2 communications satellites, unsuccessfully.

1984 April 6 STS-41-C Solar Max service mission.
1984 October 5 STS-41-G First mission to carry two women.

Marc Garneau become first Canadian in space.
Kathryn D. Sullivan becomes first American woman to make a spacewalk.
Deployed Earth Radiation Budget Satellite.

1985 April 29 STS-51-B Carried Spacelab-3
1985 July 29 STS-51-F Carried Spacelab-2
1985 October 30 STS-61-A Carried German Spacelab D-1
1986 January 28 STS-51-L Shuttle destroyed during launch and all seven astronauts on board killed.

Loss of Challenger

Main article: STS-51-L

Debris recovered from Space Shuttle Challenger was moved from Kennedy Space Center's Complex 39 to permanent storage in two secure abandoned Minuteman Missile silos at Complex 31 on the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

The Challenger explosion was among the most dramatic historical events of the 20th Century. In the days after the accident millions participated in candlelight vigils across the United States. Then president Ronald Reagan addressed the nation and honored the seven astronauts killed as "heroes." Perhaps the most notable astronaut was Christa McAuliffe, a New Hampshire school teacher. The other astronauts were Francis R. Scobee (shuttle commander), Gregory B. Jarvis, Ronald E. McNair, Ellison S. Onizuka, Judith A. Resnik, and Michael J. Smith. It was later discovered by NASA engineers and a separate panel of scientists commissioned by President Reagan that the vehicle actually broke up during the launch due to the failure of rubber seals in the booster engines called "O rings" that failed to seal properly. Subsequently, NASA adopted much stricter safety standards for shuttle missions. Shuttle missions resumed in September, 1988.

See also


  • Vaughan, D. (1996) The Challenger Launch Decision: Risky Technology, Culture and Deviance at NASA ISBN 0226851761

External links

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