The space community commemorated on Tuesday the death of seven astronauts who perished in the Challenger Space Shuttle explosion shortly after it launched on January 28, 1986.
Exactly 34 years today, it was the first incident where NASA lost an astronaut during a flight.
On board the Challenger Space Shuttle were payload specialist Gregory Jarvis, mission specialist Judith A. Resnik, mission commander Francis Scobee, mission specialist Ronald E. McNair, pilot Mike J. Smith and mission specialist Ellison Onizuka.
The seventh crew was New Hampshire high school teacher Christa McAuliffe, who had been chosen by NASA to be the first teacher in space. She was going to work on the crew as a payload specialist.
The fatal shuttle launch happened just before noon of January 28, 1986 from the Kennedy Space Center near Cape Canaveral, Florida.
Only 73 seconds after the space shuttle’s launch, a booster engine broke apart causing the shuttle to explode mid-air, according to NASA.
Americans watched from the ground below and on televisions around the country. Many of spectators were schoolchildren, who had high interest in the launch because of McAuliffe.
That night, after expressing condolences to the families of those killed, then President Ronald Reagan addressed the American people by reflecting on the country’s space exploration.
He said United States is still a pioneer in space and the Challenger crew were pioneers.
Addressing in particular the schoolchildren who were watching, “The future doesn’t belong to the faint-hearted, it belongs to the brave. The Challenger crew was pulling us into the future, and we’ll continue to follow them.” President Reagan said.
NASA observes a Day of Remembrance on Jan. 28 for more than one solemn anniversary. It also remembers those who died in the Apollo 1 fire that killed three people on January 27, 1967, and the Columbia accident that killed seven on February 1, 2003.