A little more than a minute after Challenger was launched at the Kennedy Space Center on a frigid winter morning 25 years ago, the shuttle broke to pieces when an o-ring joint in one of the solid rocket boosters failed, and the seven Challenger astronauts died.
That 1986 Challenger launch was arguably the high water mark of the U.S. manned space program. Through Mercury, Gemini and the Apollo lunar exploration program, as well as numerous unmanned scientific probes, we had boldly answered the call of space. There was no apparent limit to the adventure, sense of national accomplishment and economic benefits space exploration could confer. NASA and the White House intended the Teacher-in-Space and the proposed Journalist-in-Space flights to convey that excitement to the world.