30 years ago today, NASA’s Space Shuttle Challenger lifted off at 11:38 a.m. EST from Cape Canaveral, Florida. There were seven crew members onboard, including five NASA astronauts and a 37-year-old high school social studies teacher named Christa McAuliffe, who was on her way to becoming the first U.S. civilian to travel into space.
NASA pronounced the space mission to be incredibly safe, after having spent 25 years sending Americans into space, at an average pace of about twice a year. It was because of this level of safety and confidence that they decided to grant the first non-astronaut the privilege to enter outer space.
This is also one of the biggest reasons why the Challenger’s explosion 73 seconds after takeoff shocked the hundreds on the ground at cape Canaveral, including McAuliffe’s family, and the rest of the world as the tragedy unfolded on live television. Not a single crew member survived.
The fateful explosion was, at its root, caused by a faulty O-ring, a small gasket that sealed one of the shuttle’s rocket boosters. Without the functioning seal, pressurized, burning gas from within the rocket leaked out, met with the fuel in the external tank and caused the explosion.
CNN was the only national news station to broadcast the mission, and their video above is the original coverage of the historic disaster at the very moment it happened.