Twenty-eight years ago today an arctic chill had plunged deep into Southern states playing havoc on the launch of the Space Shuttle Challenger, STS-51-L .
There were seven crew members aboard, including school teacher Christa McAuliffe, who had been selected from more than 11,000 applicants for the NASA Teacher in Space Project.
73 seconds into flight the Challenger exploded into a plume of white smoke and began disintegrating into pieces peeling off and plummeting into the Atlantic Ocean below.
Within one hour 85% of American had received word of the disaster.
President Ronald Reagan postponed the State of Union Address scheduled for that night. In a televised address from the Oval Office, Reagan told the American people, “Nineteen years ago, almost to the day, we lost three astronauts in a terrible accident on the ground. But we've never lost an astronaut in flight; we've never had a tragedy like this. And perhaps we've forgotten the courage it took for the crew of the shuttle; but they, the Challenger Seven, were aware of the dangers, but overcame them and did their jobs brilliantly. We mourn seven heroes: Michael Smith, Dick Scobee, Judith Resnik, Ronald McNair, Ellison Onizuka, Gregory Jarvis, and Christa McAuliffe. We mourn their loss as a nation together.”
Reagan explained to the nation’s school children that sometimes painful things happen, but taking risks is part of exploration and discovery.
Reagan concluded, “We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for their journey and waved goodbye and "slipped the surly bonds of earth" to "touch the face of God."