The Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster Explained

Mr. Beat is a social studies teacher who specializes in making history and geography more engaging

Mr. Beat tells the story of the Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster, which shook NASA and the country as a whole as the first civilian tried to go to space.

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Produced by Matt Beat. All images by Matt Beat, found in the public domain, or used under fair use guidelines. Music by Electric Needle Room (Mr. Beat's band). #spaceshuttle #christamcauliffe #challengerdisaster #nasa

Special thanks to the AP Archive for footage for this video. http://www.aparchive.com

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If you Google “Teacher in Space,” Christa McAuliffe appears. How did she get to go? Well, in 1984 President Ronald Reagan announced the Teacher in Space Project, a NASA program meant to honor teachers while simultaneously inspiring students, getting them more excited about STEM and space. The program called for bringing teachers into space as non-astronaut workers.

Around 11,000 teachers applied, but NASA accepted just two. The aforementioned McAuliffe, a high school social studies teacher from Concord, New Hampshire. And Barbara Morgan, an elementary school teacher from Idaho, who would serve as McAuliffe’s backup.

Even in space McAuliffe would be required to teach- NASA made her make up lesson plans to present aboard the Space Shuttle.

Space Shuttle? Yes, that’s how she would get to space. Space shuttles are rocket-launched spacecrafts that are able to be reused and can land like an unpowered aircraft. NASA developed space shuttles to make more routine trips back and forth between the earth’s surface and Low Earth Orbit. NASA built six space shuttles, the first one launching in 1981 and the last one in 2011.

One of those six was called the Challenger. That one was the one McAuliffe got to be on. STS-51-L, as the mission was called, was the 25th of the Space Shuttle program. It was mostly a routine mission meant to launch a satellite, but part of what the crew was gonna do was check out Halley’s Comet for six days. The commander was Dick Scobee, pilot Michael J. Smith, the mission specialists Ellison Onizuka, Judith Resnik, and Ronald McNair, and payload specialist Gregory Jarvis. McAuliffe was also classified as a payload specialist.

January 28, 1986. Cape Canaveral, Florida. A cold and icy morning. Liftoff was delayed, in fact, due to all the ice on the launch pad. Around 17 percent of all Americans were watching live on television, mostly due to the presence of McAuliffe, who had trained for months for this moment. At 11:38 AM local time, everything looked normal as Mission Control told Scobee “Challenger, go with throttle up.” However, just 73 seconds after liftoff, at an altitude of around 46,000 feet, or 14,000 meters, the Challenger began to disintegrate and all communication with the crew was lost. The shuttle had no escape system, so the crew remained trapped inside. Americans back on the surface watched in horror after witnessing what looked like an explosion, and as major chunks of the shuttle orbiter fell back to the earth.

Meanwhile, the crew was still alive inside. The fuel tank exploded, but the crew compartment was still intact. They got as high as 12 miles, or 19 km above the surface. At some point they fell back to the earth, and less than 3 minutes later hit the water at approximately 207 mph, or 333 km per hour. Upon impact, all seven crew members immediately died. It all happened so quickly.

WeCollaborateEDU: "Space" playlist: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLlt1h57yoMAGlmwJ7FaF3PzOR81qSUXj2

When do you think civilians will be going to the moon?

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