On This Day in History - April 4, 1983
View of the launch pad during Space Shuttle Challenger's first launch. April 1983. Credit: NASA
The Space Shuttle Challenger was launched successfully on April 4, 1983, becoming the second of NASA's shuttles to reach space following the Space Shuttle Columbia. Challenger quickly became the most-flown orbiter in NASA’s fleet. Leading in terms of not only the number of missions flown, but also its impressive scientific and technological accomplishments. Challenger was the workhorse of the early days of the Shuttle fleet, flying 10 missions between 1983 and 1986.
Left: Astronauts Story Musgrave and Don Peterson prepare for a spacewalk. April 1983. Credit: NASA
Right: Astronaut Bruce McCandless, tests the manned maneuvering unit. February 1984. Credit: NASA
On January 28, 1986, the Challenger was launched on its tenth mission. It carried seven crew members, including Christa McAuliffe, a schoolteacher who would have been the first civilian in space. The shuttle broke apart 73 seconds after liftoff, killing everyone on board. The disintegration began after an O-ring seal within the right solid rocket booster failed at liftoff. The disaster resulted in a 32-month hiatus in the shuttle program and the formation of the Rogers Commission, a special commission appointed by US President Ronald Reagan to investigate the accident.
The seven crew members of mission STS-51L who died during liftoff. January 1986.. Credit: NASA