CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida (KETK) – 2020 marks the 34-year anniversary of one of the darkest moments in American history when the space shuttle Challenger exploded 73 seconds into flight.
All seven crew members, including teacher Christa Mcauliffe, were killed. The disaster was the result of a seal in the right rocket booster failing, allowing gas to escape and igniting the fuel tank. The seal failed due to the cold temperatures in Florida that morning.
It was later found that the seven astronauts were not killed instantly by the explosion. Several crew members activated their emergency oxygen tanks in the seconds after the blast.
Investigators said that it was impossible for these to be turned on by the blast or the impact with the water more than two minutes later. Doctors also found that ” the forces to which the crew were exposed during Orbiter breakup were probably not sufficient to cause death or serious injury.”
The crew had no chance for survival after liftoff since there was not a way to eject the astronauts safely. The wreckage hit the water at over 200 miles per hour, sealing their fate.
In a speech to the nation later that night from the White House, President Ronald Regan said: “We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for their journey and waved goodbye and ‘slipped the surly bonds of Earth’ to ‘touch the face of God.”
Back in 2019, President Trump signed a bill that authorized a commemorative coin to be made of Mcauliffe.
The disaster is thought to be one of the first instances in American history where the nation watched a disaster unfold live on television.
In the CNN broadcast, an anchor sat in silence for 22 seconds after the blast.