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Snippet of Raconteur Episode Two - Challenger Explosion

From Audio: Raconteur Episode Two - Challenger Explosion

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station description Two good friends for life, one true crime case a week
All We Know
Duration: 15:49
Listen to this snippet that gives an overview of the events leading up to, during, and after The Challenger explosion.
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Listen to this snippet that gives an overview of the events leading up to, during, and after The Challenger explosion.
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um Challenger, NASA's second space shuttle to enter service, embarked on its maiden voyage on April 4th of 1983 and made a total of nine voyages prior to 1986 so there regularly sending thes shuttles into space. So the missions, launched from Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, Florida, was delayed for six days due to weather in technical issues. So this was in 1976. The morning of January 28th was unusually cold, and engineers warned that there would be certain components, particularly the rubber O rings that sealed the joints of the shuttle to the solid rocket boosters. They would be vulnerable to failure at low temperatures, however, these warnings were unheeded. And at 11:39 a.m. the challenger was set for liftoff 73 seconds later, hundreds of people on the ground, including the families of the astronauts on board, stared in disbelief as the shuttle broke up in a plume of smoke and fire. Millions more watched the wrenching tragedy unfold on live television, and it's estimated that seven Are you OK? Yeah, I'm good. Sorry. You think I'm quite alright? Estimated what? Courtney e just going to ignore the fact that you're dying on the other end of Okay. So it's estimated that 17% of the US population watched the shuttle launched live, so 17% of people saw it explode on live TV, which is a lot of people. Within seconds, the spacecraft broke apart and plunged into the ocean, killing its entire crew, traumatizing the nation and throwing NASA's shuttle program into turmoil. So the space craft disintegrated over the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Florida. If you want to be more specific, Uh huh. So a new investigation was launched by the Rogers Commission and it was revealed that the O Ring seal on the challengers solid rocket booster, which had become brittle in the cold temperatures, had failed. Flames then broke out of the booster and damaged the external fuel tank, causing the spacecraft to explode and disintegrate. So for those of you that are more scientifically minded. More specifically, the seals failure caused a breach in the SRB joint, allowing pressurized burning gas from within the solid rocket motor to reach the outside and impinge upon the adjacent SRB aft field, joint attachment hardware and the external field tank. So This led to the separation of the right hand srb after failed joint attachment and the structural failure of the external tank, aerodynamic forces broke up the orbiter. Hmm. So for those of you that now at all what I'm talking about that Zatz what the scientific conclusion was made. So the commission also found that Morton Theo call the company that designed the solid rocket boosters had ignored warnings about potential issues. NASA managers were aware of these design problems, but also failed to take action and famously, scientists Richard Feynman, who was a member of the Rogers Commission that was investigating this, uh, demonstrated the O ring flaw to the public by simply dropping the O ring into a glass of ice water and then pulling it back out. And then it basically comes apart at that cold temperature. So the exact timing of death of the crew is unknown. Several crew members are known to have survived the initial break up of the spacecraft. So there are photos that show the pod breaking away from the spacecraft and obviously heading into the ocean. So they died somewhere between that happening and hitting the ocean floor. Uh uh, deaths. Included Francis are Scobie, the commander. Michael J. Smith, the pilot. Ronald McNair, a mission specialist. Ellison own uH oh Tezuka, a mission specialist. Judy Judith Resnik, a mission specialist. Gregory Jarvis, a payload specialist. And Christine McAuliffe, a payload specialist and teacher. Um, So in 1984 President Ronald Reagan announced the teacher in space project and Crystal learned about NASA's efforts to find their first civilian and educator to fly into space. So NASA wanted to find a quote unquote ordinary person, Ah, gifted teacher who would communicate with students while in orbit, and McAuliffe became one of more than 11,000 applicants to be chosen to go up in space. Wow. So looking back to what exactly happened to cause this forecast for January 28th predicted an unusually cold morning with temperatures close to negative one degrees Celsius or 30 F, the minimum temperature permitted for launch, which is like the baseline. That's where they stop and say this is not safe any longer. So the shuttle was never certified to operate in temperatures that low the O rings as well as many other critical components, had no test data to support any expectation of successful launch in those conditions. So it's obviously super unusual that it's this cold in Florida at that time. Totally unexpected. So by mid 1985 c a call, which is the company that manufactures the equipment, they're engineers worried that others did not share their concerns. So this was about six months prior. They're expressing concern about the low temperature effects on the boosters. So Bob Ebeling in October 1985 wrote a memo titled Help Exclamation Point so that others would actually read it, and it expressed concerns regarding low temperatures in the O rings. After the weather forecast, NASA personnel remembered FIA calls warnings and contacted the company. When a theater called Manager asked Ebeling about the possibility, possibility of launching 18 degrees, he answered, were only qualified to 40 degrees. What business does anyone have even thinking about launching at 18 degrees? So, he said, we're a no man's land at this point, we have no information about whether this is safe. I'm not going to give a recommendation. And his team agreed that the launch risk disaster, so the company immediately called NASA, recommending they postpone until temperatures rose that afternoon. NASA manager Judd Love and Good responded that Theo call could not make the recommendation without providing a safe temperature. So he basically said, Unless you can give me a temperature of that safe, I'm not going to take your recommendation. You said what? They were tested. What they They said they only were only qualified to 40 degrees. So basically NASA was saying exactly NASA was saying like, Well, what between 40 degrees and now is going to appease you if we're just going to postpone the launch? Uh huh is kind of how I interpret that. So they were going back and forth. They set up multiple teleconferences throughout the day to justify the no launch recommendation between all of these different people who are making these decisions. So they the engineers relayed their concerns and they didn't know how better to explain this other than it's not safe. Basically, what you're doing would not be safe. And, uh, the SRB o rings had been designated a critically criticality one component, meaning that there was no backup. If both primary and secondary o rings failed and their failure could destroy the orbiter and kill its crew is what these engineers air trying Thio relate to NASA. So, according to the specific engineer Ebeling, a second conference call was scheduled with NASA, but only included Theo Call management, so they didn't ask any of the engineers to go in on the second meeting. Mhm. So for reasons that are unclear, Theo call management disregarded its own engineers warnings and recommended that the launch proceed as scheduled. NASA did not question them, and Ebeling told his wife that night that the challenger was gonna blow up the next day. He was like, It's gonna blow up. There's there's nothing that can go good about this, which is insane overall, that he knows it's gonna happen and, you know, it happens literally powerless. And it sounds like they did everything they could sure to try to stop it from happening. So as a staff, yeah, so during powered flight of the space shuttle, the crew escaping was not possible. Launch escape systems were considered several times during the shuttle development, but NASA's conclusion was that the shuttle's expected high reliability would preclude the need for any escape system so modified S R 71 Blackbird ejection seats and full pressure suits were used in the two and the two man crews in the first four shuttle orbital missions. So they had set test pilots up and equipped them to be able to escape because they were considered test missions. But those same escape options were removed for operational missions. That followed. Sure seems a little silly to me. Yeah, I can see how I can kind of see the rationale behind that, though. Sort of like the idea that yeah, what, like we have, there's no precedence for this failing. And then, of course, obviously they they did. So in a point in time where there was plenty of precedents for E. I can see where they're coming from with that thought process. So looking forward after the crash on March 7th. So this is three months. Two months after the crash, divers from the U. S s preserver identified what might be the crew and on a compartment on the ocean floor. So the finding, along with the discovery of the remains of all seven crew members, was confirmed the next day. And then on March 9th, NASA announced the finding to the press, so the crew cabin was severely crushed and fragmented from the extreme impact forces. One member of the search team described it as largely a pile of rubble with wires protruding from it. Mhm. The largest intact section was the rear wall containing two payload bay windows and the air lock. All windows in the cabin had been destroyed, with only small bits of glass still attached to the frames. So impact for forces appeared to be the greatest on the left hand side, indicating that it had struck. It had struck the water nose down in a left leaning first position, so it kinda came in at an angle with the left side impacting first. So Christa McAuliffe, the teacher, was to be a part of the STS 51 l crew and would conduct experiments and teach lessons lessons from space. So her plan duties included basic science experiments in the fields of chromatography, hydroponics, magnet magnetism and Newton's laws. So she was planning to conduct 2 15 minute classes from space, including a tour of the spacecraft called the Ultimate Field trip and a lesson about the benefits of space travel called Where We've Been, where we're Going, why the lessons were to be broadcast to millions of schoolchildren via closed circuit TV. And to record her thoughts, McAuliffe intended to keep a personal journal like the women on the conscious toga wagons pioneering to the West. Mhm. So she there's going to be fully engaged in this opportunity that she was given from the start, right? So after the incident, NASA refrained from sending astronauts into space for more than two years as it redesign a number of the shuttle's features. Flights began again in September of 1988 with a successful launching of the discovery. Since then, the space shuttle has carried out numerous important missions, including the repair and maintenance of the Hubble Space Telescope and the construction of the international space station. So on February 1st, 2003, a second shuttle disaster rocked the US when the space shuttle Columbia disintegrated upon re entry, killing all seven people on board While missions resumed in July 2005. The space shuttle program ended in 2011. So 10 years after the shuttle excuse me. 10 years after the Challenger disaster, two large pieces from the spacecraft washed ashore on the Florida beach. Uh, the remaining debris is now stored in a mission style. A missile silo at Cape Canaveral. Mhm. And that is what I know about the challenger explosion. That's super interesting. I can definitely say I did not know a large majority of that. No. And, um, when I was in my NASA training the instructor Sorry, I'm not laughing at your training and laughing at it. Sounded for a minute like you were an astronaut. I am an astronaut. Oh, excuse me. I am an astronaut now. I had a one day training in nomine astronaut. Um, the instructor for my course talked about how there was a lot of social pressure on NASA because we were spending millions of tax dollars on the's shuttle missions that they were sending into space. And apparently during this time, they kept delaying, delaying, delaying, delaying it for various reasons. You know, this was one of the reasons that they delayed it, but there were other reasons that it was delayed. And then people started saying, you know, apparently, like Tom Brokaw was on the news, like, Where is this money going? Why are we spending all this money? And so there's a lot of pressure on NASA that, like, push forward now. That's not to say that they didn't make unsaved decision overall and killed seven people. You know, they obviously had, like, you said, ample reason not to send the shuttle that day. E mean temperature. It's super important in terms of the safety of those shuttle vehicles. And so it was just really interesting to me that she was like, Yeah, I mean, NASA fully takes responsibility for this. Now, you know, they know that it was a poor decision that was made, and it cost seven people their lives.
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