Today in 1986, the Challenger space shuttle broke apart over the coast of Cape Canaveral, Florida. Just 73 seconds after the shuttle’s lift-off, its seven crew members were dead.

It was the fault of one small rubber O-ring that sealed booster joints at ignition. Shuttle engineers knew it could become brittle in cold temperatures and, after seeing the weather forecast for the day, tried to stop the launch. But NASA went ahead with the launch as scheduled.

Then, on February 1, 2003, seven more shuttle crew members died when the Columbia spacecraft reentered the Earth’s atmosphere. A hole had been punctured in the leading edge of one of Columbia’s wings. The shuttle didn’t last the intense heat of re-entry.

In 2004, President George W. Bush announced NASA would close the shuttle program in the next six or seven years.

The program ended in 2011. At that time, Nathan Bernier created this tribute to the program for KUT News.

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  • Marjorie Wells January 28, 2016 at 1:50 pm

    Never will I forget that day, the images of the explosion on that TV screen at work, we were all stunned. Thank you Nathan Bernier for this tribute to the brave men and woman that risked their lives to explore the unknown.
    Your last name rocks by the way…….
    #FeelTheBern……..just sayin 💙