• On January 28, 1986, the space shuttle Challenger disintegrated. Two minutes into the shuttle’s tenth mission, a seal on one of the solid rocket boosters failed and the vehicle broke apart over the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of central Florida. This failure resulted in the tragic loss of five astronauts and two payload specialists, including teacher Christa McAuliffe, who had planned to teach science classes from orbit.

    The loss of Challenger resulted in the space shuttle program being suspended for more than two years. During this suspension, NASA scientists worked to determine the cause of the explosion and make sure shuttle missions were as safe as possible.

    After the disaster, President Ronald Reagan said, “Sometimes, when we reach for the stars, we fall short. But we must pick ourselves up and press on despite the pain.” The Challenger disaster is a reminder of the risks that all explorers take in the effort to expand human knowledge.

  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    astronaut Noun

    person who takes part in space flights.

    disaster Noun

    terrible and damaging event.

    disintegrate Verb

    to fall apart and disappear.

    explorer Noun

    person who studies unknown areas.

    NASA Noun

    (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) the U.S. space agency, whose mission statement is "To reach for new heights and reveal the unknown so that what we do and learn will benefit all humankind."

    solid rocket booster Noun

    instrument used to launch a large object, such as the space shuttle, beyond Earth's atmosphere.

    space shuttle Noun

    vehicle used to transport astronauts and instruments to and from Earth.