Challenger, U.S. space shuttle. It exploded (Jan. 28, 1986) 73 seconds into its tenth flight, killing all seven crew members, including the first civilian in space, schoolteacher Christa McAuliffe. The disaster was caused by the faulty design of a gasket (the O-ring seal). As dramatically demonstrated by Richard Feynman, a member of the presidential commission appointed to investigate the accident, the elastic O-ring did not respond as expected because of the cold temperature (30°F/-1°C) at launch time. (At a news conference, Feynman illustrated the loss of elasticity by dropping an O-ring into a glass of cold water.) As a result of the explosion, the United States did not send astronauts into space for almost three years as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration redesigned a number of features of the space shuttle.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

More on Challenger from Fact Monster:

  • Memory Challenge - Memory Challenge How well can you remember what you see? by Holly Hartman Look at the picture for ...
  • Space Accidents - Space Accidents Space travel is still pretty new, but it hasn't escaped the realm of tragedy. ...
  • Memory Challenge: 1 - Memory Challenge View this painting and then test your memory. Question 1: The girl on the horse is ...
  • Roman Numeral Challenge - Test your knowledge of Roman numerals by playing this exciting, interactive game!
  • Banned Books - Find out which books have been banned and why. Banned books ranage from Harriet the Spy to The Catcher in the Rye

See more Encyclopedia articles on: Space Exploration

Play Hangman

Play Poptropica

Play Quizzes

Play Tic Tac Toe