Challenger Shuttle Disaster: 25 Years Later

The space shuttle Challenger STS-51L spaceflight ended in tragedy on Jan. 28, 1986 73 seconds after liftoff. (Image credit: NASA.)

On the 25th anniversary of one of the darkest moments in spaceflight history — the space shuttle Challenger disaster — former astronauts and others remember the lost crew today (Jan. 28) at a memorial service at NASA's Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Cape Canaveral, Fla.

This week has been a somber one for spaceflight: Yesterday marked the 44th anniversary of the Apollo 1 disaster, when three astronauts died in a fire that broke out inside their module during a ground test roughly a month before launch. And Feb. 1 will be the eighth anniversary of the space shuttle Columbia accident, in which seven astronauts died when the shuttle broke up in the skies over Texas during the return from orbit.

Many in the spaceflight industry say the anniversaries are a reminder to stay vigilant for potential pitfalls and keep striving to make space travel as safe as possible. The Challenger disaster, in which seven astronauts, including civilian high-school teacher Christa McAuliffe, died just after liftoff, was later attributed to a failed seal on one of the space shuttle's solid rocket boosters

The Apollo 1 fire, the first fatal accident for NASA astronauts, was eventually attributed to a number of design and construction flaws in the space capsule.

"It's a time to reflect and it's a time to remember those people who have sacrificed to get us where we are," veteran shuttle astronaut Ron Garan told "A lot of the lessons learned in this business are written in blood, and if we don't learn from them, those people died in vain."

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Live Science Staff
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