It was 28 years ago today that the Challenger space shuttle exploded over the Atlantic Ocean 73 seconds after liftoff, killing all seven crew on board.
“Flight controllers here are looking very carefully at the situation. Obviously a major malfunction,” the NASA launch commentator said immediately after the explosion.
The disaster hit the nation especially hard, as school children across the country were watching the liftoff because teacher Christa McAuliffe was chosen out of 11,000 applicants to become the first civilian in space.
Here’s the live footage, broadcast by CNN:
This video is especially chilling, with the camera focusing on McAuliffe’s parents and the rest of the crowd during the takeoff and explosion:
Over the next several weeks, salvage crews recovered pieces of the shuttle, in addition to the remains of the seven astronauts. Those that could be identified were released to their families, while the rest were buried in a monument to the Challenger crew at Arlington National Cemetery on May 20, 1986.
Space.com has a good read about that day and the events that lead up to it in “Challenger: Shuttle Disaster That Changed NASA.”
Just recently, some long-forgotten photos of the disaster were recovered in an attic.
Here’s a look back at the disaster, with photos from our archives:
The space shuttle Challenger lifts off Pad 39B at Kennedy Space Center, Florida, at 11:38 a.m., EST, in this January 28, 1986 file photo. | AP file photo
A strange plume is seen on the right side of the rocket booster of the space shuttle Challenger seconds after launching. | AP Photo
A shot of the Challenger immediately after it exploded. | AP Photo
Moments after the explosion. | Getty Images
Two of the shuttle’s rocket boosters fire off in opposite directions after the explosion. | Getty Images
This series of photographs taken by Aurora’s Arlene Shoemaker show the shuttle as it breaks apart. | Photos courtesy of Arlene Shoemaker