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Grey Havoc

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Grey Havoc

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http://www.space.com/31732-space-shuttle-challenger-disaster-explained-infographic.html
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Grey Havoc

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http://arstechnica.co.uk/science/2016/01/apollo-1-challenger-and-columbia-remembering-nasas-lost-astronauts/​
 

Grey Havoc

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AGS-1787

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Are they going to use solid boosters for the new rocket Nasa is working on?
 

uk 75

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I was working in Brussels when the news broke and the images of the smiling crew walking out to the launch kept being played on various TV channels along with the explosion. Until 9/11 it was my most chilling TV moment.
 

Archibald

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I was a 3.5 years old space nerd wannabee. So I can't remember. What I remember (probably from 1987-89 publications) is the Y-shaped yellow brown colored cloud of the explosion. And Chernobyl red-white tower standing over the darkened, smoldering nuclear crater nearby.

These two horrible visions burned into my young mind growing up in the second half of the 80's. And they still haunt me nowadays.
 
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Whisperstream

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I was a student at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Florida at the time, and was awake until around 3 a.m. the night prior to the launch. If I wanted to drive to Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in time to see the planned 9:30 a.m. liftoff, I knew that I wouldn’t get much sleep, and I was scheduled to take a test at noon. Someone asked why I was still planning to go and I confessed I didn’t know. “It’s just another shuttle launch,” I said. But, I didn't want to miss it.

A few hours later I drove to Titusville where I joined a long line of cars heading for NASA Causeway East. Normally, it was necessary to request a causeway access pass well in advance. I had failed to do this, but decided to take a chance. Upon reaching the NASA security checkpoint, I was surprised when a guard handed me a pass and told me to proceed.

After parking, I joined a throng of enthusiastic tourists and space buffs undeterred by the cold weather. I will never forget the bitterly cold temperatures, around 36 degrees as I recall. The sky was a spectacular cerulean blue, cloudless and seemingly infinite. When liftoff was delayed two hours due to failure of a component in the launch processing system used to monitor the fire detection system, I decided to huddle in my car until the final five minutes of the countdown. At that point, I braced myself against the icy wind and waited.

Excitement built to a crescendo in the final moments as the launch announcer called out the countdown. “Ten, nine, eight!” Billowing steam clouds signaled main engine start. “Three, two, one, zero!”

All along the causeway, people began to shout and clap. I was about six miles from the launch pad. Even travelling at more than 700 miles per hour the sounds of liftoff took nearly 10 seconds to roll across the frigid water to challenge the cheering voices.

At first everything looked normal but then the vehicle’s white smoke trail suddenly blossomed into a brownish-orange ball. The two solid-fuel booster rockets split away in opposite directions before ultimately establishing parallel trajectories as if flying in formation. Various smaller objects emerged from the expanding cloud, each ascending with its own white vapor trail. Seconds later, both boosters disappeared in twin flashes of fiery yellow.

A woman next to me shouted, “Look, booster separation!” I knew, however, that it was too soon for that. At this point in the flight, Challenger would have not yet have reached 50,000 feet. “No,” I told her, “something is very, very, wrong.”

The NASA public address system had fallen silent. As people began to realize what had happened, some cried out in anguish. I watched various small objects tumbling toward the ocean, trailing white streamers. Challenger’s smoke trail, brilliant white against azure, ended in a twisted mushroom cloud. Debris particles, like a snowstorm of glitter, fell for nearly an hour. Disbelieving eyes scanned the sky for an orbiter that would not return. Fingers pointed in forlorn hope at a white parachute that I recognized as part of a booster rocket.

Driving back to Embry-Riddle was a surreal experience. The smiling attendant at the toll bridge south of KSC didn't seem to have heard the news. Back on campus a few hours later, I could still see the smoke trail hanging in the sky. I had missed my test, but my instructor said I could reschedule. I don't remember much about the scramble to redo the Avion issue, at least not specific details, but I will never forget that day.
 

Archibald

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A complete heartbreak of a story. THEY SHOULD NEVER HAVE LAUNCHED IN SUCH CONDITIONS. Not only temperatures, but high altitude wings were atrocious.
And that was key to the disaster.

In every single other O-ring blow-out before, the thing melted into a kind of "putty" that did the job and somewhat hold on. By random luck !
But on Challenger... not only the poor O-ring was melted into putty as usual; before melting, it had taken a -10°C all night long ; and at 40 000 feet, it took the most violent shaking and pressure a Shuttle ever met, crossing a very brutal jet-stream.

And so the putty simply fell apart, and the flame shot out at the worst possible location (another bout of bad luck - Murphy law, how we hate you) - on the side of the tank *and* at the right place to cut the SRB-tank attachement like a blowtorch.

Problem was that the 1986 flight schedule not only was grueling, it was already in shambles.

- STS-61A should have launched before Christmas but landed on January 12.

- STS-51L itself was a "relic" from the 1985 flight schedule, lost near February 1986.

- No probe would go to comet Halley, and the most favorable Earth-orbit observation window for a SPARTAN from the Shuttle was on March 6. The comet would not wait.

- In May the launch window to Jupiter would have two Shuttles with two Centaurs launching Galileo and Ulysses - the later needed Jupiter to go above the ecliptic and watch the Sun poles. That Jupiter launch window would not wait, or the penalty would be 2 years... the Shuttle in order to launch the Centaur and its payload would have the SSMEs running at 109% and weight trimmed to the bone, crew and consumables included.

- In August Hubble was to be launched (with its flawed mirror, but that's another story...)

- in the fall, NASA would somewhat lose a Shuttle to the Air Force with Vandenberg first launch

- 1985 had 10 launches
- 1986 had 16 launches planned
- 1987 was to go to 24 launches
- the most annual launches the Shuttle fleet did post-Challenger was 8 (1996)

NASA had its back against a concrete wall.
 
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Whisperstream

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There were schedule pressures and other factors that "pushed" the STS-51L launch in January 1986. The biggest single problem, however, was something called "normalization of deviance."

The O-ring burn-through issue was a known problem but, up to that point, had not resulted in a catastrophic failure. Decision makers became complacent, think that since nothing terrible had happened yet it wasn't likely to happen in the future. Rather than fix the problem, it was largely ignored. Another example of normalization of deviance was the situation with debris striking the thermal protection system (TPS) tiles during launch. A number of shuttles retuned to Earth with numerous cracks and divots in the TPS along the wing edges and undersurfaces. Again, none of these had resulted in catastrophic failure. Then there was the STS-107 launch of Columbia in 2003. We saw the tragic results after the vehicle reentered the atmosphere with a big hole in the leading edge of the wing.
 

Archibald

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There was a STS-107 major warning, very ironically on the second flight after Challenger, STS-27... Atlantis was heavily bombed with debris and the crew was lucky to come back alive.
 

Grey Havoc

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TomcatViP

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RIP
“What we should remember about Al McDonald [is] he would often stress his laws of the seven R’s,” Maier says. “It was always, always do the right thing for the right reason at the right time with the right people. [And] you will have no regrets for the rest of your life.”
Great one.
 

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