January 28, 1986. On today’s date 30 years ago, the Space Shuttle Challenger (mission STS-51-L) exploded and broke apart 73 seconds into its flight, after an O-ring seal in its right solid rocket booster (SRB) failed at liftoff. The explosion led to the deaths of all seven Challenger crew members. The spacecraft disintegrated over the Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of central Florida at 11:38 EST (16:38 UTC).
The O-ring failure caused a breach in the SRB joint it sealed, allowing pressurized hot gas from within the solid rocket motor to reach the outside and impinge upon the adjacent SRB attachment hardware and external fuel tank.
This led to the separation of the right-hand SRBs aft attachment and the structural failure of the external tank. Aerodynamic forces then broke up the orbiter.
Bottom line: Posted in honor of the crew of Space Shuttle Challenger, which exploded and broke apart 73 seconds into its flight, after an O-ring seal in its right solid rocket booster (SRB) failed at liftoff. R.I.P Michael J. Smith, Dick Scobee, Ronald McNair, Ellison Onizuka, Christa McAuliffe, Gregory Jarvis and Judith Resnik.
Deborah Byrd created the EarthSky radio series in 1991 and EarthSky.org in 1994. Today, she serves as Editor-in-Chief of this website. She has won a galaxy of awards from the broadcasting and science communities, including having an asteroid named 3505 Byrd in her honor. A science communicator and educator since 1976, Byrd believes in science as a force for good in the world and a vital tool for the 21st century. "Being an EarthSky editor is like hosting a big global party for cool nature-lovers," she says.