A fatal accident in the United States space program occurred on January 28, 1986, when the Space Shuttle Challenger (OV-099) broke apart 73 seconds into its flight, killing all seven crew members. There were five NASA astronauts, as well as two payload specialists.
O-ring seals used in the joint failed because they were not designed to handle the icy conditions experienced during this launch. The leak occurred because of a breach in the SRB joint that allowed pressurized burning gas from the solid rocket motor to reach the external fuel tank attachment hardware. Consequently, the aft field joint attachment of the right-hand SRB separated, resulting in structural failure of the external tank. As a result, the orbiter was destroyed by aerodynamic forces.
The Shuttle program was halted for 32 months following the disaster, and the Rogers Commission was formed to investigate the accident.
It is estimated that 17 percent of US viewers witnessed the launch live due to Christa McAuliffe’s presence, the first teacher in space. In addition, one study found that 85 percent of Americans had heard about the accident within an hour of it occurring.