The brave crew aboard the Space Shuttle Challenger likely survived the first few seconds after its devastating explosion, according to a new book.
The capsule carrying crew members Michael Smith, Francis (Dick) Scobee, Ronald McNair, Ellison Onizuka, Judith Resnik, Gregory Jarvis and Christa McAuliffe was ejected intact into the fireball, according to author Kevin Cook.
Her new book “The Burning Blue: The Untold Story of Christa McAuliffe and NASA’s Challenger” claims that the crew “were aware, at least initially, and fully aware that something was wrong” in the moments that followed. explosion over the Atlantic Ocean. in Florida in 1986.
It is believed that the crew aboard the shuttle were aware when the explosion occurred
(left to right front) Astronauts Mike Smith, Dick Scobee, Ron McNair and (left to right, back) Ellison Onizuka, teacher Christa McAuliffe, Greg Jarvis and Judith Resnik
As it later appeared, the cold had hardened the rubber o-rings holding the thruster sections together, which contained the explosive fuel.
What happened aboard the Challenger Space Flight?
The shuttle exploded 73 seconds after taking off from Kennedy Space Flight Center in Florida
There had been concerns in the morning that the Challenger was scheduled to fly in January 1986 due to the cold temperatures and concerns about certain equipment.
It was known that the O-rings, which hold the propellant sections containing rocket fuel together, sometimes failed to fully expand in cold weather. This meant that a space would be left between the boost sections, allowing the superheated fuel to burn.
Video footage captured of takeoff shows smoke billowing from the make-up sections, causing a small flame that grew and caused the explosion.
It is believed that the crew on board survived the initial explosion, but the final speed of the shuttle’s fall into the ocean at over 200 miles per hour was fatal.
The cold meant the rings didn’t expand fully, leaving less than a millimeter gap between the boost sections, allowing a few grams of superheated fuel to burn.
Engineers attempted to warn NASA against carrying out the launch due to the cold weather after a frosty night, but they were canceled.
Barely 73 seconds after takeoff, the small flame developed, shattering the tank and igniting the hydrogen fuel, causing the explosion.
But, the interior of the crew cabin, which was protected by heat-resistant silicone tiles designed to withstand re-entry, was not burned.
Instead, it was sent up into the sky, subjecting the passengers to a force of 20G, which was far more than the threeGs to which their training had accustomed them.
An investigation later found that the G-force jump had been successful in surviving and that the likelihood of injury was “low”.
The investigation also did not reveal any signs of sudden depressurization that would have caused the passengers to pass out. A closer examination of the wreckage also revealed that three of the astronauts’ emergency air supplies had been turned on, indicating that some of the crew survived the initial blast.
It is also believed that Mr. Smith attempted to restore power to their shuttle because the switches on his control panel had been moved.
The object landed about 12 miles above the Atlantic Ocean, reaching a terminal speed of over 200 miles per hour.
The final descent lasted more than two minutes.
Mr. Cook’s book focuses on Christa McAuliffe, 37, a social studies professor who won NASA’s Teacher in Space competition and earned a place in the mission on January 28 as a specialist in payload.
As it would be the first civilian in space, the flight garnered enormous media attention, with McAuliffe hoping to prove that “teachers have the good things too” after defeating 11,000 candidates to take part in the mission.
In August 1984, after marrying her former high school boyfriend Steve McAuliffe, having two children, and landing her dream job as a social science teacher at Concord High School, she spotted a headline that read “Reagan wants a professor in space ”.
Mr. Cook writes: “With the elections in three months,” writes the author, “the president and his advisers saw a chance to promote the space program and win the votes of the teachers in one fell swoop.”
Christa McAuliffe (right, seated with her backup crew member Barbara Morgan) was a social studies professor who won NASA’s Teacher in Space competition and earned a place in the mission.
She applied along with some 11,000 other teachers and was eventually selected to board the flight.
In the months leading up to the flight, Ms. McAuliffe underwent rigorous training, but the flight suffered several delays, including an attempt on January 26, 1986 that was abandoned due to rain.
Another attempt the next day was abandoned after NASA technicians struggled to repair a malfunction in the hatch.
The fatal flight flew the next day, despite concerns about the cold.
Ms McAuliffe was buried in Concord in an unmarked grave because her husband feared tourists would come to the site.
Barely 73 seconds after takeoff, a small flame developed, shattering the tank and igniting the hydrogen fuel, causing the explosion
In the months leading up to the flight, Ms McAuliffe underwent rigorous training, but the flight suffered several delays
Then-president Ronald Regan ordered an investigation into the Challenger disaster, where mismanagement and disregard for safety advice was found to have played a role in the crash.
It is believed that there were several pressures that may have prompted the agency to proceed with the launch when it would have been better to wait.
The first was that NASA was planning several launches that year and maybe wanted to show it could meet its deadlines.
The other factor was that Reagan was scheduled to deliver his State of the Union speech that night and wanted to brag about the launch in his speech.
The failure resulted in a nearly three-year hiatus in NASA’s shuttle program, the next shuttle, Discovery, taking off on September 29, 1988.
NASA ended the shuttle program for good in 2011, removing the remaining spacecraft and instead opting for multi-million dollar rides on Russian Soyuz capsules to bring US astronauts to the International Space Station.
WHEN DID NASA LAST LAUNCH CREW MISSIONS FROM THE UNITED STATES?
The Columbia shuttle is shown taking off from Kennedy Space Center in 2003
NASA launched its first space shuttle, the Space Shuttle Columbia (STS-1), from the Kennedy Space Center on April 12, 1981.
Over the next three decades, the space agency deployed a total of 135 missions from American soil.
Columbia was just the beginning; Following in his footsteps, NASA launched Challenger, Discovery, Atlantis and Endeavor to transport people into orbit.
These launches also enabled the construction of the International Space Station – the largest structure in space, now home to a rotating team of astronauts from around the world, conducting important experiments that continue to advance our knowledge of the cosmos.
The shuttle missions ended with the Atlantis shuttle on July 21, 2011 after STS-135.
In the years that followed, NASA had to rely on Russian modules to send astronauts to the ISS, all launched from foreign soil.
Now, the space agency is stepping up efforts to bring the crewed launches home.
On August 3, 2018, NASA revealed the nine astronauts who will soon take to space aboard the Boeing CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX Crew Dragon, to launch a “new era of US spaceflight”.
The crew’s flight tests will be launched from the Kennedy Space Center in 2019.
The shuttle missions ended with the Atlantis shuttle on July 21, 2011 after STS-135. Above, Atlantis lands at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, marking the official end of the 30-year program