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At 1138 AM on the morning of Tuesday January 28 1986 millions of Americans watched as the space shuttle Challenger lifted off Seventy-three seconds later millions of Americans watched in horror as the Challenger disintegrated into a huge ball of fire It was the twenty-fifth space shuttle mission and the tenth launch of the Challenger Unfortunately it would also be the last launch for the Challenger Dick Scobee was the mission commander His crew included Mike Smith Judith Resnik Ellison Onizuka Ronald McNair Gregory Jarvis and Christa McAuliffe The launch was already a very big deal in the United States but the fact that a teacher would be going into space made the event even bigger Christa McAuliffe was chosen by NASA to be the first civilian in space Many things contributed to the Challenger disaster but what really happened To start off with the launch date had been changed several times due to poor weather additional crew training launch of NASA space shuttle Columbia desert dust storms and hatch failure Then an unscheduled teleconference was held with Morton Thiokol Inc engineers The shuttles solid fuel booster rockets and their ability to perform in cold weather was the topic up for discussion as NASA was concerned that the flexible O-rings that sealed the four rockets together would not stand up to the cold The Morton engineers voted against the launch unanimously but NASA ignored their recommendation NASA eventually pressured the engineers to reverse their recommendation so that the launch would go on--uninterrupted That problem was just the beginning Much much more went wrong before launch time For instance the ships scheduled to recover the booster rocks were grounded because of high winds Also the launch pad was very cold and the shuttle was under a constant threat of ice formation Other problems included a malfunctioning alarm system Despite all these problems NASA decided to launch That decision would haunt them forever Forty-five seconds after
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