Space Shuttle Disasters

Nov 16, 2017

On January 28th, 1986, the space shuttle "Challenger" exploded 73 seconds after liftoff, and on February 1st, 2003 the space shuttle "Columbia" broke apart upon reentry. In both disasters, all hands were lost. For the "Challenger," it was determined that the O-ring seals in the right solid rocket booster failed in the cold temperatures on the day of the launch. This caused the booster to rupture and explode, taking the lives of seven astronauts, including the first teacher astronaut Christa McAuliffe.

For the "Columbia," although the shuttle broke up during reentry, its fate had been all but sealed during liftoff when a nearly 2-pound piece of insulating foam broke away from an external fuel tank and struck the space shuttles left wing. This punched a hole in the heat resistances tiles of the wing allowing super-heated gases from the atmosphere to cut through the wing like a blow torch, triggering a series of mechanical failures that would eventually break up the shuttle.

While these are incredibly tragic events, viewed by millions of people, space exploration must continue and must always continue. Not only is exploring space necessary for the human endeavor, but space-based research is a main spark for an incredible number of inventions like satellite TV, medical imaging, smoke detectors, cordless tools, thermal gloves and boots, invisible braces, freeze drying, joystick controllers, artificial limbs, aircraft anti-icing systems. While space exploration is currently expensive, it is worth every dollar both for expanding our knowledge of the universe and for our livelihood on the earth.


Follow your curiosity to the Fred G. Dale Planetarium at Wayne State College.