Stranger Fruit

Twenty years tomorrow

On January 28th 1986, the shuttle Challenger broke up 73 seconds into its tenth mission. Here James Oberg demolishes seven myths about the Challenger tragedy – including the idea that millions of people saw the “explosion” (and the reason for quotes will become obvious if you read the article) live on television. I was a freshman in college at the time. The flight started at 11:08 EST – just after four in the afternoon in Ireland and I remember watching the launch on CNN which, as Oberg notes, was the only channel that was showing the event live.

While some of Oberg’s points were not news to me, I had not realized that the “[t]he flight, and the astronauts’ lives, did not end at that point, 73 seconds after launch. After Challenger was torn apart, the pieces continued upward from their own momentum, reaching a peak altitude of 65,000 ft before arching back down into the water. The cabin hit the surface 2 minutes and 45 seconds after breakup, and all investigations indicate the crew was still alive until then.”

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Comments

  1. #1 Dave S.
    January 27, 2006

    While some of Oberg’s points were not news to me, I had not realized that the “[t]he flight, and the astronauts’ lives, did not end at that point, 73 seconds after launch.

    I was aware of this, although it certainly was not then or now made prominant in the news. It was an unwritten rule that nobody talked about that.