When the Challenger Changed a World

By: Katarina Rendon

January 28th, a day that may seem like any other, but in 1986 it was a day that marked tragedy for America. NASA, widely known for its greatest advancements in aerospace research and for being at the forefront of space exploration, is the company behind the Challenger mission. Anyone could have predicted the success NASA would accumulate, but no one could have predicted this failure that would shake the country.

Monica Rendon, now mother of two, recalls the event as it came undone right in front of her. The forty-nine-year-old recalls the event as devastating, “…I remember just feeling shocked about what I was seeing. I couldn’t believe that it was real…”, also mentioning the faculty at the time had wheeled in portable televisions tuned into the news channel. The scene could be described as unsettling and stomach wrenching. Other eye-witness accounts deemed the event truly heartbreaking.

Compared to teenagers then, teens today may not know what the Challenger Disaster was. The late Challenger was worked to fill in as a basic test article for the space shuttle program. A lighter orbiter was NASA’s main goal during the years in which it was being fabricated. Because of this, the guinea pig flight was expected to guarantee that a lighter airframe could deal with the pressure of space.

Although hopes were high, the seventeen percent of the population watching was ultimately crushed when, after seventy-three seconds, Challenger suddenly exploded. This was due to a malfunction of O-ring seals used in the shuttle. These seals were not designed to handle the unusual cold temperatures that existed during the launch. Thus, the Challenger broke apart midair and disintegrated over the Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of Cape Canaveral, Florida. With it, taking the lives of all seven crew members, including high school teacher Christa McAuliffe.

The effects of the explosion were different for many. However, for Monica Rendon, it changed her whole perspective about news TV. AT the time, she recalls how much of a bore it was to watch the news channel, but since the crash she has changed her mind stating, “It made me want to watch the news more often in the days after that because I wanted to know why and how it happened, and how the families were doing…”, from that day on, she has always been tuned in. Even though most Americans’ hearts were broken, they continued to beat, leaving the country to heal together as a community.

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