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Space Shuttle Challenger Fast Facts

CNN Editorial Research

Here’s a look at what you need to know about the 1986 Space Shuttle Challenger disaster.


Seven crew members died in the explosion, including Christa McAuliffe, who would have been the first teacher in space.

The explosion was a result of a rocket booster failure which ignited the fuel tank.

Some of the objectives of Mission STS-51L included the “Comet Halley Active Monitoring Program” (CHAMP), a fluid dynamics experiment, and lesson plans and telecasts by Christa McAuliffe.


April 4, 1983 – The Challenger’s maiden voyage, STS-6. The Challenger completed nine successful missions between 1983 and 1986.

July 19, 1985 – New Hampshire teacher Christa McAuliffe is chosen to be the first teacher in space.

January 28, 1986 – The Space Shuttle Challenger explodes 73 seconds into flight at approximately 11:40 a.m. EST.

September 19, 2019 – The Christa McAuliffe Commemorative Coin Act of 2019 is passed by Congress. The act calls for the Department of Treasury to “issue not more than 350,000 $1 silver coins in commemoration of Christa McAuliffe.” The act is signed by President Donald Trump on October 9, 2019. The coins will be minted in 2021 to commemorate the 35th anniversary of the tragedy.

November 10, 2022 – The History Channel and NASA reveal that a 20-foot-long piece of debris from the Space Shuttle Challenger was discovered off Florida’s east coast during the filming of “The Bermuda Triangle: Into Cursed Waters.”


Francis R. (Dick) Scobee
– Spacecraft Commander
– Born – May 19, 1939
– Birth place – Cle Elum, Washington
– Family – Wife, June, and two children

Michael J. Smith
– Pilot
– Born on April 30, 1945
– Birth place – Beaufort, North Carolina

Judith A. Resnik
– Mission Specialist
– Born – April 5, 1949
– Birth place – Akron, Ohio

Ronald E. McNair
– Mission Specialist
– Born – October 21, 1950
– Birth place – Lake City, South Carolina
– Family – Wife, Cheryl, and two children

Ellison S. Onizuka
– Mission Specialist
– Born – June 24, 1946
– Birth place – Kealakekua, Kona, Hawaii

Gregory B. Jarvis
– Payload Specialist
– Born – August 24, 1944
– Birth place – Detroit, Michigan
– An engineer who worked for Hughes Aircraft Corp.

Christa McAuliffe
First teacher in space
– Born – September 2, 1948
– Birth place – Boston, Massachusetts

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