A man was at his grandparent’s house going through their belongings after his grandmother passed away. He was digging through an old box of photos when he discovered these photos from the 1986 Challenger explosion. There was a lot of coverage of the Challenger explosion, however these give you a view from the crowd watching below. These photos are so tragic. It shows a perfect timeline from the launch to the explosion. His grandfather worked for NASA as a contractor and he was able to see just about every space shuttle launch. One of those was the famous Challenger launch. Below are pictures of the explosion which he happened to catch at the perfect time.
This was not the Challenger’s first flight. It had flown 9 successful missions starting in 1983 until the end of 1985.
The Challenger flew more than any other orbiter during that time.
It also carried the first woman astronaut in US history.
In 1986, Challenger had a total of 15 flights scheduled, which would also include the launch of the Hubble Space Telescope, the Galileo, and the Ulysses space probe.
During its 10th mission on January 28, 1986, the success of the Challenger would all change.
There were seven crew members on board during the launch, and all seven of them would lose their life that day.
One of the people killed was teacher-in-space Christa McAuliffe. During the mission, McAuliffe was going to teach a few classes that would then be transmitted to classrooms on Earth.
The accident was caused by a rupture in a joint in the right hand solid rocket booster. Solid rockets use solid fuel. They basically are lit then keep burning until all of the fuel is gone.
Each solid rocket boost is 149 feet long and is made up of 4 sections that are bolted together, which then form the whole booster. When the sections are placed together, there are weak spots where fire could leak out of the sides while burning.
To fix the issue of fire escaping, they placed two rubber 0-ring seals in the joint. However, NASA had been having issues with the o-rings for several years. They believed the second o-ring would stop any fire from escaping.
They had planned to change the design of the solid rocket booster joints in 1988, but it would be too late.
Because the o-rings were made of rubber, they would get stiffer the colder the weather. When the Challenger launched in January 1986, it was the coldest day of the year with a temperature of 36°F. This caused the o-ring to fail in the lower joint of the right solid rocket booster.
There was a bit of black smoke at lift off which was an indication that the o-ring was burning. The smoke stopped after about 2 seconds, and they believe that soot clogged the leak for just a little while.
About 40 seconds into the flight, the shuttle was hit by a strong wind. This is normal when going into space, however they believe this wind knocked the clogged soot free. About one minute into the flight, a flame shot out of the rocket joint and burned a hole into an external fuel tank. In the fuel tank, they store liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen.
At 73 seconds in, the fire burned away the lower strut that attached the solid rocket booster to the external tank. Because of this, the liquid oxygen began to spill out. Then the dome on the bottom of the external tank fell off, which then released thousands of gallons of liquid hydrogen.
The external tank is pressurized, the fuel acted like a rocket motor, giving the Challenger almost 3 million pounds of extra thrust. The Challenger is not equipped to stand this much thrust and started to break apart.
The fireball that was seen during the explosion was actually fuel from the external tank spilling out and burning.
Because of the external tank break up, the Challenger was pushed off course and was traveling at a speed of Mach 2.
The force caused pieces of the Challenger to completely break apart and fall into the Atlantic Ocean.
Everybody passed away when the crew compartment slammed into the Atlantic Ocean traveling at over 200mph.
After the explosion, NASA increased the safety that is found in their space shuttles and added an escape system for the crew in case of a disaster.
Watch the video below to see the Challenger disaster as it was being broadcasted on CNN:
Even though the Challenger explosion was tragic, these pictures really capture a very important part of history back in 1986. Unfortunately, this explosion did take the lives of all 7 astronauts on board only 73 seconds into the launch. This horrific scene paved the way for testing and safety precautions to avoid any disasters like this in the future.