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January 28, 2011

Challenger disaster: remembered

On January 28, 1986, at 11:38 a.m., EST, the space shuttle Challenger lifted off Pad 39B at Kennedy Space Center, Florida. The entire crew of seven was lost in the explosion 73 seconds into the launch. Today, on the 25th anniversary of this national tragedy, we honor in memory the brave crew who gave their lives for the exploration of space. Sharon Christa McAuliffe, a New Hampshire social studies teacher, was NASA's choice for the first teacher in space. Because McAuliffe was our local astronaut, she is featured heavily in this post, but we honor all seven on the anniversary of a nation's great loss. -- Paula Nelson (34 photos total)

The crew of the space shuttle Challenger. From left: Ellison Onizuka, Mike Smith, Christa McAuliffe, Dick Scobee, Greg Jarvis, Ron McNair and Judith Resnik. (NASA/1986)

Christa McAuliffe at Johnson Space Center in Houston. A whole generation, including McAuliffe's own students, has grown up since McAuliffe and six other astronauts perished on Jan. 28, 1986, a quarter century ago on Friday, Jan. 28, 2011. Former schoolchildren who loved her are making sure that people who weren't even born then know about McAuliffe and her dream of going into space. (AP/1985) #

Christa McAuliffe rides in the Lions Club parade, passing in front of the New Hampshire Statehouse, with her daughter, Caroline, and son, Scott. McAuliffe was a social studies teacher at Concord High School, before being chosen NASA's first teacher in space. (The Boston Globe/Janet Knott/1985) #

McAuliffe, chosen America's first teacher to fly aboard a space shuttle mission conducts her hometown volunteer "Nevers Band" on the Statehouse lawn. Concord had proclaimed "Christa McAuliffe Day." She conducted the band in "Stars and Stripes Forever" (The Boston Globe/Janet Knott/1985) #

Teacher Christa McAuliffe jogs with friends in Concord, N.H. (AP/Jim Cole) #

Christa McAuliffe, the teacher astronaut, celebrates with friends in her house in Concord, N.H., the night she returned from White House. (The Concord Monitor/Suzanne Kreiter) #

McAuliffe boards a test flight on January 2, 1986, to practice stop and go landings the day after arriving at NASA from Houston. #

McAuliffe prepares to go for a test ride in a NASA T-38 jet trainer in September 1985. The jet ride was part of her training to ready her for the space shuttle flight in 1986. #

McAuliffe aboard the T-38 trainer jet over Galveston Bay during training for the launch of the space shuttle Challenger mission 51-L. Part of Galveston Island and the Houston, TX metropolitan area can be seen in background at top left. McAuliffe represents the Teacher-in-Space Project aboard the Challenger. (AP/1986) #

High School social studies teacher Christa McAuliffe handles the controls of the remote manipulator arm on the flight deck of a space shuttle simulator at the Johnson Space Center during a July 1985 visit. (UPI) #

McAuliffe hangs suspended in space during zero gravity flight training at Johnson Space Center in October 1985. McAuliffe won the nation-wide search for the Teacher-in-Space Project scheduled to fly on the space shuttle mission in January 1986. (UPI) #

McAuliffe signs autographs prior to a ceremony honoring her for being chosen as the first teacher to ride on the space shuttle. City officials awarded her an engraved plate and the city flag. (AP/Suzanne Kreiter/1985) #

McAuliffe stands next to the Space Shuttle orbiter Challenger at Pad 39-A at Kennedy Space Center, Florida in October 1985. (AP/Jim Neihouse) #

Christa McAuliffe and Barbara Morgan, right, laugh during training in 1986. (NASA) #

McAuliffe smiles as she enters the NASA van to be driven to the launch pad. (The Boston Globe/Janet Knott) i #

The crew of the space shuttle Challenger flight 51-L, leave their quarters for the launch pad at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla. From foreground are commander Francis Scobee, Mission Specialist Judith Resnik, Mission Specialist Ronald McNair, Payload Specialist Gregory Jarvis, Mission Specialist Ellison Onizuka, teacher Christa McAuliffe and pilot Michael Smith. (AP/Steve Helber) #

The space shuttle Challenger lifts off Pad 39B at Kennedy Space Center, Florida, at 11:38 a.m., EST, on January 28, 1986. (NASA) #

Classmates of the son of Christa McAuliffe, America's first schoolteacher to become an astronaut, cheer as the space shuttle Challenger lifts skyward from Cape Canaveral. Their delight soon turned to horror as the entire crew of seven was lost in the explosion 73 seconds into the flight. (AP/Jim Cole) #

This combination photo of sequential images taken by NASA during the catastrophic flight of the space shuttle Challenger, shows a fiery plume escaping from the right solid rocket booster which led to the explosion that killed the crew of seven aboard. (HO/AFP/Getty Images) #

This photograph of the Space Shuttle Challenger exploding 73 seconds after lifting off from the Kennedy Space Center launch pad became the iconic image of a national tragedy. (Bruce Weaver/AP) #

McAuliffe's family reacts to a malfunction warning on the NASA public address system, which was followed quickly by the explosion. (The Boston Globe/Janet Knott/1986) #

Teachers and students from McAuliffe's school in New Hampshire gasp in shock and tears as they watch the debris fall from the sky after the explosion. (The New York Times/ Keith Meyers) #

NBC news anchor, Tom Brokaw, reports from the NBC Washington studios that the space shuttle Challenger has exploded and all seven astronauts have perished. (NBC News) #

President Ronald Reagan, surrounded by members of his senior staff, watches a television replay of the explosion of the Challenger at the White House. From left are: Larry Speakes, Deputy White House Press Secretary; Presidential Assistant Dennis Thomas; Special Assistant Jim Kuhn; Reagan; White House Communications Director Patrick Buchanan, and Chief of Staff Donald Regan (AP/Craig Fuji) #

Customer David Kimball reacts as store employees Lynne Beck and Lisa Olson embrace. They watched the Houston memorial service for the astronauts who died in the Challenger explosion at a store in Concord, N.H. Pictured on the television screen are family members of one of the astronauts. (AP/Charles Krupa/1986) #

Beachgoers at Cocoa Beach, Fla., look over the larger of two pieces of the space shuttle Challenger that washed up on shore Tuesday, Dec. 17, 1996. (AP/Malcolm Denemark) #

A cross and a wreath, holding a picture of the space shuttle Challenger, stand on the shore as a Coast Guard cutter heads out to sea searching for debris from the shuttle at Cape Canaveral, Fla. (AP/Jim Neihouse/1986) #

Sailors from the Navy salvage ship USS Preserver pull in what is believed to be part of the rocket casing of an inertial upper stage, which rode in Challenger's cargo bay when it exploded 1/28/86. The stage was to have boosted a tracking data satellite to a higher orbit, after release by the crew. The debris was found in waters about 70 feet deep, 20 miles northeast of the Kennedy Space Center. (AP) #

Members of the Presidential Commission on the space shuttle Challenger accident walk past the solid rocket boosters and the external tank of a shuttle being fitted in the Vehicle Assembly building at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla. (AP) #

Debris from the space shuttle Challenger is laid out on a giant grid at the Kennedy Space Center in this March 1986 NASA photo. NASA hoped to piece together the remains of the space vehicle. The photograph was part of the testimony given to the Presidential Commission on the space shuttle Challenger accident. (NASA) #

A color guard carries the remains of Christa McAuliffe from a plane to a hearse at Dover Air Force Base. (The Boston Globe/Janet Knott/1986) #

Snow falls on the gravesite of Christa McAuliffe. McAuliffe and the rest of the crew of the space shuttle Challenger died 25 years ago when the shuttle exploded. Before the world knew her as "the teacher in space," McAuliffe was known as a popular, energetic teacher who took a great interest in her students. (AP/Jim Cole) #

Christa McAuliffe Elementary students walk past a display honoring McAuliffe in February 2003, after an assembly about the history of the space shuttles. McAuliffe, and the six other astronauts who died 25 years ago today, are remembered for their courage and desire to explore the unknown. (AP/Mike Roemer) #

A wreath commemorating the seven astronauts who perished in the space shuttle Challenger accident rests in the Astronaut Memorial Tree Grove during the annual National Day of Remembrance ceremony at the Johnson Space Center on Thursday, Jan. 27, 2011, in Houston (AP/Houston Chronicle/Smiley N. Pool) #