This was a very difficult day for me, as I am sure it was for all of us. I had just come out of the hospital. I had been in a bad construction accident. I was in an apartment in Allentown Pa. and was living off of Demeral and was confined to a wheelchair. Needless to say I wasn't very mobile. I spent a lot of time in front of the TV in those days. Sitting there drinking coke and in a demeral fog I had just called my friend Mark aptly known to his friends as fungus. Mark was working and I was giving him a call to see if I could con him into coming up from Philly for the weekend hoping to get out myself. I had the TV on and was watching the launch. I normally don't miss the launches if I can help it, but everyone was watching this day because it was the day that the public had been waiting for. All of us that grew up watching the first man walk on the moon and Star Trek in never ending reruns had all dreamed of one day getting to go into space ourselves. That's what made this launch special, school kids in every school in the country were watching.
As were most adults. Today a civilian was going with them. A school teacher who was actually going to even teach a class from the shuttle while in orbit. We all felt that meant NASA was finally going to let us all go up eventually. They had to, it was safe. Little did we know how much of a pipe dream that was. I watched as the engines ignighted and the shuttle lifted off. Talking on the phone the whole time watching but not absorbed. When it happened - I lost my words in mid sentence and my friend that I was talking to thought my meds had kicked in and started yelling my name into the phone. I finally said My god the shuttle just blew up, his response
was Yeah right. No I mean it its gone it just blew. I'm watching it, turn on the radio. It regretfully was true with the whole nation watching. Not since Apollo and the First Shuttle launch had this large of an audience been glued to their screens. All those little kids in school. Could you imagine what those teachers went through that day on top of everything else. Those are my recollections of that day, along with the nonstop playing of the films over and over again. I hope sharing my memmories with you spark yours of that hard day. Below are links to a nice tribute and some video. Say a prayer for those that touched the face of God.
Commander (CMD): Francis "Dick" Scobee (also flew on 41C/STS-13)
Pilot (PLT): Michael J. Smith (first flight)
Mission Specialist 1: Judith Resnik (also flew on 41D/STS-16)
Mission Specialist 2: Ellison Onizuka (also flew on 51C/STS-20)
Mission Specialist 3: Ronald McNair (also flew on 41B/STS-11)
Payload Specialist 1: Gregory Jarvis (first flight)
Payload Specialist 2: Christa McAuliffe (first flight) Teacher
Launch pad:39-B (6), first shuttle launch from 39-B
Launch:January 28, 198616:38:00.010 GMT
Landing:Scheduled forFebruary 3, 198612:12 p.m. EST (17:12 GMT)
Duration:0:00:01:13.2136 d 34 min planned
Orbit altitude:150 nautical miles (280 km) planned
Orbit inclination:28.5 degrees planned
Ice on launch pad
Below sequence is from a combination of real time telemetry data and photographic analysis. T+ times are seconds from liftoff.
T+60.004: internal pressure in the right-side SRB begins dropping because of the rapidly increasing hole in the failed joint
T+60.238: initial evidence of flame from the rupture impinging on the external tank
T+64.660: plume from the burn through suddenly changes shape, indicating a leak has begun in the shuttle's liquid hydrogen tank (aft portion of external tank)
T+64.937: under computer control, main engine nozzles pivot trying to compensate for the unbalanced thrust produced by the booster burn through and maintain the shuttle on course
T+66.764: pressure in the shuttle's external liquid hydrogen tank begins to drop, indicating a massive leak
T+72.284: right-side booster apparently pulls away from the aft strut attaching it to the external tank
T+73.124: aft dome of liquid hydrogen tank fails, causing a propulsive force pushing the tank into the liquid oxygen tank in the forward external tank. The liquid hydrogen tank is the aft region of the external tank. Roughly concurrent with this, the right SRB rotated about the forward attach strut and struck the intertank structure
With the external tank disintegrating, Challenger was torn apart by aerodynamic forces. The two SRBs, which can withstand greater aerodynamic loads, were freed from the ET as it broke apart and both SRBs began to fly on their own.
Technically, the Shuttle and External Tank were not shattered by "an explosion", but merely disintegrated in a fraction of a second under the tremendous aerodynamic forces that are experienced during the "Max-Q" phase of flight. This explains why the crew compartment (also called the forward fuselage) and astronauts survived the initial event. While the detached forward fuselage continued along its free-fall trajectory, the external tank, orbiter reaction system (the rear part of the Shuttle), and their contents combusted during the next several seconds in a massive fireball. Had there been a true explosion, the entire Shuttle would have been destroyed in matter of a fraction of second and the crew would have been killed at that moment.
The two SRB's, now fully detacted, continued as still-firing rockets in their own right.
NASA's photo and TV support team, led by Charlie Stevenson, assisted in the analysis of this aspect of the disaster.
At least some of the astronauts were alive and conscious after the "explosion" because three of the four personal egress air packs (PEAPs) of the flight deck crew had been activated. There was no evidence to indicate that the activation of the PEAPs was a consequence of the ocean surface impact.