Today marks 33 years since Space Shuttle Challenger tragedy


HOUSTON (CNN/WAVY) — Monday marks a somber anniversary in U.S. history.

Thirty-three years ago, the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded 73 seconds after lifting off from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. 

Officials later determined that a rocket booster failure caused the fuel tank to ignite.

In this photo from Jan. 9, 1986, the Challenger crew takes a break during countdown training at NASA's Kennedy Space Center. Left to right are Teacher-in-Space payload specialist Sharon Christa McAuliffe; payload specialist Gregory Jarvis; and astronauts Judith A. Resnik, mission specialist; Francis R. (Dick) Scobee, mission commander; Ronald E. McNair, mission specialist; Mike J. Smith, pilot; and Ellison S. Onizuka, mission specialist. (Image Credit: NASA)

NASA says the shuttle’s launch was originally set for Jan. 22, 1986, but was delayed five times for reasons that ranged from bad weather to equipment issues.

Among the seven crew members killed on that fateful day was Christa McAuliffe, who would have been the first teacher to make it to outer space. 

Hours after the explosion, President Ronald Reagan honored the fallen crew saying they “slipped the surly bonds of earth” to “touch the face of God.”

Each year, NASA holds a Day of Remembrance ceremony to honor fallen astronauts. This includes the crew of Apollo 1 — Ed White, and rookie Roger Chaffee — who were killed in a fire during a pre-launch test on Jan. 27, 1967.

NASA also uses the Day of Remembrance to honor the seven-member crew of the Spacce Shuttle Columbia, who died after their shuttle broke apart during re-entry on Feb. 1, 2003.

The 2019 Day of Remembrance service was scheduled for Jan. 31, but NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said last week it was postponed due to the government shutdown. 

Bridenstine said in his statement he would make it a priority “once the NASA family is back at work.”

Two days later, President Donald Trump announced a short-term plan to end the shutdown and reopen the government through Feb. 15.

It’s unclear whether NASA will resume its plans for the 2019 Day of Remembrance.

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