What Was The Effect of The Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster on NASA and the Future of the United States Space Program? This was the major question proposed during the late 1980’s. What was the future of NASA going to be after this terrible disaster? Would there be enough funding for the continuation of the United States Space Program? This Challenger explosion was one of the major catastrophes of the entire Space Program since the beginning of funding for the Space Program was started. It seems, out of all the mistakes that NASA and the United States government has ever made, this one made a lasting impression on many Americans, and foreign authority figures all over the world. The Space Shuttle Challenger disaster was a major tragedy. However, it was a tragedy that could have been prevented with a closer inspection of one of the shuttle’s parts that had been of concern since the entire Space Shuttle Program had been started; the O-Ring.
Inside the Solid Rocket Booster, there exists certain seals which were the rubber O-rings. The objective of the O-rings is to act as a seal that is meant to prevent gases from escaping through the Solid Rocket Booster. One of the main reasons for the explosion was that O-ring “flexed” and let the gases escape, which in less than seconds later, caught fire and created the explosion. Among the other minor problems were those of electrical problems and faulty gages which were just “overlooked” because the problems were only minor and they posed no real threat to the safety of the mission or the crew of seven(7). 11:39:17am, Tuesday, January 28th, 1986.
As the Space Shuttle Challenger soared into the sky that morning, 74 seconds into flight, it exploded, killing all 7 crew members on board including one High-School teacher. This was the worst accident in the history of the U.S. Space Program. It was witnessed by thousands of spectators and visitors who watched at the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded before their eyes. Among the crew killed were: Francis R.
Scobee, Commander; Michael J. Smith, Pilot; Judith A. Resnick, Electrical Engineer; Ellison S. Onizuka, Engineer; Ronald E. McNair, Physicist; Gregory R. Jarvis, Electrical Engineer; Christa McAuliffe, High-School teacher. For most of the crew, it was just an ordinary mission with the exception of the school teacher. For Christa McAuliffe, it was everything out of the ordinary. She was the one out of many applicants that had the opportunity to ride in the Space Shuttle to help teach children all over the country about the experiments she was going to accomplish in space.
As the spectators at Kennedy Space Center watched, everyone was in disbelief including many of the technicians inside the control room communicating with Francis Scobee, the Commander of the Shuttle Challenger. This experience is best described through a passage between Challenger and the Control Room which occurred as this: “Challenger lifted off..and passed Mach One, the speed of sound, at 19,000 feet. The computers throttled back the three main engines to 65 percent of thrust, anticipating the stress that the engineers call Max-Q, maximum aerodynamic pressure. ‘Okay, we’re throttling down,’ Scobee reassured his crew as the thrust dropped. For fourteen seconds they swayed and jolted silently in their seats while the shuttle chopped through wind shear.
‘Throttling up’, Scobee called, watching the bright lines of his flight data screen. ‘Throttle up’, Smith confirmed from his own instruments ‘Roger’, Dick Scobee formally acknowledged. ‘Feel that mother go’, Smith called, noting the violent surge of power. As the Challenger climbed, its computers processed millions of bits of data, sifting, sorting, and sending it down to the Cape where it was instantly re- transmitted to the Mission Control Room at Johnson Space Center in Texas. Inside the control room, the technicians saw that the Challenger’s engines had returned normally to full thrust, and that the ascent was proceeding perfectly. CAPCOM Richard Covey hunched at his console, his face tight with concentration.
‘Challenger”,.. “go at throttle up.” On Challenger’s noisy flight deck, Commander Scobee punched his transmit button and replied, ‘Roger, go at throttle up.’ It was exactly seventy seconds after lift-off. The Shuttle was near 50,000 feet..but in the next three seconds Challenger slammed through increasingly violent maneuvers. Mike Smith voiced sudden apprehension. ‘Uh-oh.’ In Mission Control, the pulsing digits on the screens abruptly stopped.
At the top of each console screen, a frozen while “S” was now centered. Static, no down-link. Challenger was dead. Mission Control spokesman Steve Nesbit sat..he stared around the silent, softly lit room. The red trajectory line was stationary on the display screen.
Finally, he spoke: ‘Flight controllers here are looking very carefully at the situation. Obviously a major malfunction.” (Excerpts from Challenger, a Major Malfunction, McConnell, Introduction.) This was one of the more moving at sensitive words spoken at the time which showed the disbelief many had and how such a mistake could have been made. The deaths of the astronauts lie in the memories of many, including students across the country and the world. Christa McAuliffe’s parents called them all “heroes” and that they have grief and condolences for all people effected everywhere by the tragedy. McAuliffe’s parents were thankful that their lives were kept private during this hard time, and they said that even with this terrible disaster, life must go on.
Across the seas, there was also feelings of sorrow and disbelief. Pope John Paul II at the Vatican on January 30th, 1986 at the Vatican he talked and comforted the people about the loss of the American astronauts. He talked to the people, and made this lasting preach: “I lift up to God a fervent prayer so that he accepts in his embrace the souls of these courageous pioneers in progress of science and of man.” (The New York Times, Jan. 30th, 1986; A16) Along with the Pope, Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi sent his “personal condolences” to the families and friends of the American astronauts. “It is a very sad day, not only for all Americans, but for all humanity.” (NY Times, Jan. 30th, 1986; A16).
Mikhail S. Gorbachev also sent condolences over to the United States for the death of the seven astronauts. From quotes from the Soviet people, they had high expectations of American technology and were devastated that such a tragedy could occur. Showing support, they have not lost faith, claims a citizen in Russia. For Americans especially, it was a sad and mournful day.
Many Americans were thankful of the warm and thoughtful condolences that many of the foreign nations of the world sent to the United States for support. Among the most surprised commentator, was Muammar Quadaffi due to the feelings of unrest that the United States had toward Libya and vice versa. Overall, Americans were pleased and thankful of the support they received across the world to deal with the deaths. Many people were especially hopeful about the health statistics of the astronauts. They hoped that the crew could have survived the 10 mile decent into the ocean at speeds of over 400 mph. This could have been a possibility at first, since technicians believed that since the explosion occurred in the rear of the shuttle, the cabin might still be in tact, yet the astronauts would probably be unconscious. However, this was not the case. NASA officials speculate that either the astronauts died in the shuttle in the air, or they were unconscious and died from impact into the water or drowning.
The body remains were later airlifted to Houston where they received a proper burial. After peoples’ feeling had calmed to a certain degree, NASA and the United States Government began the tedious task of trying to find out what exactly caused the explosion. At first thoughts, NASA workers believed that there was a hydrogen gas leak from the huge external fuel tank which carried 350,000 gallons of liquid hydrogen and more than 140,000 gallons of liquid hydrogen which could have acted as a “small” hydrogen bomb. After weeks and months of investigations, it was found that along with a slight hydrogen gas leak, the mai …