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Snippet of Local Coverage of the Challenger Explosion on WCBS 1986

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An Audio Salute the Challenger Heroes on the 35th Anniversary Listen to haunting audio from before, during, and after the Space Shuttle Challenger Explosion. Take a look back in history and hear how it all unfolded.

Experience what it was like on the ground that fateful day on January 28th, 1986, when The Challenger space shuttle suddenly exploded midflight. From discussions on the safety concerns that were before launch, to eyewitness accounts of the events, and news coverage of the explosion in real-time, hear it all here.
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Listen to local coverage of The Challenger explosion on WCBS in 1986. Hear the reactions of those who were there to witness the event.
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space shuttle challenger exploded into a gigantic fireball 75 seconds after lift off today, apparently killing all seven crew members, including schoolteacher Christa McAuliffe. Fragments of the $1.2 billion spacecraft, one of four in NASA shuttle fleet fell into the Atlantic Ocean 18 miles southeast of the Kennedy Space Center launchpad. There was no announcement of the fate of the crew, but it appears there was no way they could have survived. The explosion occurred as Challenger was 10.35 miles high, speeding toward orbit it almost 1200 miles an hour. The shocking spectacle was witnessed by family and friends of the astronauts who gathered at Cape Canaveral and by millions more around the country who viewed the launch on television. President Reagan postponed his State of the Union speech, which had been scheduled for tonight, Mr Reagan told reporters at the White House. It's a horrible thing all of us have witnessed, he said. I can't rid the self myself of the thought of the sacrifice of the families who were there at the Cape watching this tragedy. Also, he said, I can't help but think what they must be going through the NASA administrator, William Graham, was meeting with congressmen on Capitol Hill about the NASA budget when they saw the disaster on television. Other crew members. Commander Francisco Be, 46. The 40 year old pilot Michael Smith, 36 year old Judith Resnik, 35 year old Ronald McNair. Ellison Onizuka, 39. And 41 year old Gregory Jarvis. It was the first in flight disaster in 56 U. S. Manned space missions. Theo Explosion A devastating setback for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration After successfully carrying out 24 shuttle missions, John Glenn, the former astronaut and the first American in orbit, said, We have become accustomed to success. It has been an amazing success story so far. On the slow motion video rerun of the explosion, it was difficult to determine the source of the explosion, but unmistakably when a huge fuel tank with nearly a half a million gallons of a volatile propellant ruptured it toward the challenger into many pieces. After the explosion, the two solid fuel booster rockets separated and continued to fly crazily out of control in a clear sky, trailing long tales of smoke before they plummeted into the seas, one of them seen floating down on its parachute. Television pictures of the impact area relayed from a helicopter showed no evidence of any large pieces floating in the water. NASA said the explosion occurred at a point when astronauts were beginning to throttle their engines up to maximum thrust after they throttle them down to 60% level at 35 seconds in order to reduce the forces of gravity during the lift off. Among those who witnessed the explosion, Mrs McAuliffe's attorney husband, uh Steve, and their two Children, nine year old Scott, six year old Caroline. They were in the crowd watching at Cape Canaveral. Also, they're members of Scott's third grade class from Concord, New Hampshire, displaying a large go Krista banner, They watched in stunned silence as the spacecraft blew apart. Several began crying. Parents hugged others, and quickly they cleared them off the viewing, bleaches bleachers and herded them to the Busses. Also there, Mrs McAuliffe's parents, Ed and Grace Corrigan of Framingham, Massachusetts, they stood silently during the launch. Arm in arm remained standing together as the loudspeaker brought the bad news and a NASA official climbed a couple of rows into the bleachers, walked to them and said the vehicle has exploded. A stunned Mrs Corrigan looked back at him, repeated his words. Ah, vehicle has exploded, he nodded silently. In the Corrigan's were quickly led away. The spouses of other astronauts were also there no immediate reaction from any of them. All 1200 students at McAuliffe's Concord High School were cheering the televised launch when a teacher yelled for them to be silent because something appeared to be wrong. As it became clear there was an explosion, stunned students murmured, It can't be really can't be watching this. First lady Nancy Reagan, watching the launch alone in family quarters, explained, exclaimed, Oh my God, no. The House of Representatives interrupted its session, and the chaplain delivered a prayer for the astronauts. The house then adjourn. The gleaming ship had risen spectacularly off the launch pad at 11 38. Here in the city, New Yorkers were also stunned by this tragedy in space, and Fred Fishkin has a report. It's the kind of tragedy that became instantly etched on the faces of people assume as they learned the news. On 45th Street in Manhattan, groups of people were huddled around the television sets in a crazy Eddie's store. Watching in disbelief I saw happened. I was casually looking over and north, and I saw this explosion. It's unbelievable. And what I know, I don't think anybody got out alive. It's really I never thought it could happen. Rich Brahmin of Long Island, who stood shoulder to shoulder with Jose Rodriguez of Staten Island, e delayed for a moment, then for it to have ended like this. Many found it hard to put their feelings into words, but then again, they really didn't have to. Fred Fishkin WCBS News Morning today on the part of a Long Island teacher who was in the competition to take part in the ill fated Challenger flight, Ellen Mitchell has that story. Susana Cruz Oh was a physics teacher in East. I slip Beyond that. She was a finalist in the nationwide competition to select the teacher to go into space. A cruise, Oh says when they all first applied. No one really even considered the dangers of a space mission way were never concerned about that safety record of the entire space program about standing on, and it is just very, very unfortunate that this should happen. E feel very, very sorry for Christmas family. For her Children. It's so uncomprehending to me that they were watching this morning. You should see such a thing happened. What words which he conveyed to them. There are nuns that it grew so tearfully. I'm Ellen Mitchell for WCBS News. Senator Jake Garn, the Utah Republican, the first senator to fly on the shuttle gathering his thoughts. And so was Congressman Bill Nelson, the last member of Congress to fly aboard the shuttle. We'll hear more from Wall Wheeler coming up in just a little bit. The president's State of the Union speech scheduled for tonight has been canceled, and the president will speak to the nation tonight. But exactly when that speech will take place, we do not know well, well, some of the reactions Larry speaks and talking about the decision to postpone the state of the union and characterizing the emotions of those who watch the launch an explosion in a phrase that may go into history. First pride, then horror. The reactions is characterized by Larry Speaks of the White House, NASA Communications. First word of the explosion. Obviously, we have a major problem, Senator John Glenn, the first American to fly in orbit, said. I guess we always knew there would be a day like this a day like what? Well, CBS correspondent Bruce Hall at the Cape tells us that some observers, apparently not NASA personnel who have viewed slow motion video tapes of the disaster, said that the explosion aboard the challenger appeared to begin in an area of the spacecraft assembly were the main liquid oxygen liquid hydrogen fuel tank is connected to the solid fuel boosters that connected to one or the other. Of the two of those. Others, however, says Hall think that the explosion began in one of the solid fuel tanks itself. According to haul, those observers drew their conclusions from viewing slow motion video tape. CBS News correspondent Dan Rather adds the idea that the area of the liquid fuel tank described by some halls observers is the area of a seam which exists across the liquid fuel tank. The solid fuel rocket boosters are seamless stainless steel, but there are seams in the liquid fuel tank. Also to note the solid fuel is relatively stable. In fact, NASA says it's very resistant to explosive combustion. The solid fuel boosters is supposed to be propelled away from the main body of the launch vehicle after they're separated, which should have occurred a few moments after this explosion by what NASA's documents called small rockets separation motors. That's after the firing of some explosive bolts, which were triggered by an electrical charge. The solid fuel itself a mixture of aluminum powder, aluminum per chlorate powder, which provides the oxygen and a little bit of rust, not accidental rust. Deliberately introduced to control the speed of burning, it has roughly the consistency of the rubber. In a typewriter eraser, NASA has to use a small rocket motor to set that a fire. As the launch secrets begins. It is not stuff that is easy to make blow up. It's said to be insensitive to static friction or impact going back, though people have looked at the slow motions. Senator Glenn said it appeared to him that one of the two solid boosters on the other side of the main engine had a blowout at the case of the cockpit or the crew area of the shuttle, stressing repeatedly, though, that he was only speculating Glenn said the first point of light from the explosion that he could see in reviewing the slow motion video tapes appeared to be coming out of the solid on the booster. That sequence on the slow motion is somewhat hazy because of the distance some 19 miles away from the cameras, so it is very difficult whether it ruptured or not, says Glenn. He really doesn't know the boosters were developed by Northern Systems. That's a firm based in Norwalk, Connecticut, a subsidiary of United Technologies, which has its headquarters in Hartford. Both of those have been flown repeatedly and without incident. And in fact, after this explosion, they continued to fly, or at least catapult through the air, perhaps out of control. One of them was seen deploying the parachute that's normally used Thio Bring it back down so that it could be recovered this disaster. And it is apparently that although NASA still says that they're not going to make any statement on the fate of the crew until after the all searching after all of the search and rescue efforts are exhausted, uh is the first in flight in the U. S. Space mission in 56 of them in all, three astronauts were killed, of course, back in 1967 19 years and a day ago in a launchpad explosion during the Apollo program. They were Virgil, Gus Grissom, Roger Chaffee and Edward White. 19 years ago yesterday, the 27th of January 1967 Grissom, Chaffee and White had been rehearsing for a launch of their Apollo spacecraft when a fire broke out in the spacecraft while they were still on the launch pad. All three were asphyxiated in the five minutes that it took, rescuers toe open the hatch from the outside that launch pad by all the way, no longer in use, it's dedicated and stayed to serve as a monument. The participants in the space program. Today's launch was the first from the new pad, which is supposed to be able to speed up the launchings off shuttle missions. The president, of course, has said that there will be no further manned space launches until this one is entirely sorted out. Other fatalities in the space era have all involved Soviets. Soviet cosmonaut Vladimir Kononov was killed in the same year as Grissom, Chaffee and White. March 23 that was a reentry crash, and cosmonauts Jogi Double Volsky, Vladislav Volkov and Viktor Basayev died from re pressures a depressurization their Soyuz 11 capsule when it was re entering back in 1971. That June accident ended a then record length space mission that been hooked up with their space station for some 23 days before making the re entry, and died at that point during the re entry. Up until this point, NASA had conducted 24 space shuttle missions in slightly less than five years without anything resembling a serious incident. The first space shuttle flight ended successfully on the fourth of July 1982. That was an eight day flight going back in space history. The first man, the U. S. Mission, was May 5th 1961 Alan Shepard and the Mercury spacecraft, which he called Freedom seven of 15 minute suborbital flight and then John Glenn's mission, February 20th 1962 Friendship seven. He flew three orbits in a little under five hours before going on to the other space exploits for which he became famous Neil Armstrong, the first moon landing that a successful mission despite some of the difficulties that occurred on that in 1969. This tragedy, uh, a number of people saying that it's set us far, far back in our space mission. Clearly, that remains to be seen because the NASA investigation is just obviously barely beginning. One of the key points, though, is going to be at what point that explosion appears on the slow motion. NASA has techniques for enhancing that video. There are others who have those techniques through allowing even close years closer study of what exactly happened. But as of this point, it appears that all seven of the crew members aboard this Challenger mission are apparently lost. NASA, however, declining to confirm that, saying that they will withhold any announcement on that fact until all search and rescue efforts air out the president's State of the Union postponed until next Tuesday. He will, however, at some point this evening addressed the nation on the subject of this contest about every place in the world, as people not only see some of the tape to replays of what happened, but as word spreads everywhere on Wall Street. Some of the aerospace stocks were also hurt. Morton Thiokol. They stopped trading on the stock. It's the stock that makes the propellant that is used in the space shuttle, and when it opened, it was down about three point. Some other stocks were down more than a point in the aerospace industry. W CBS News time is 2 44. It's 23 degrees, the humidity is 41%. The wind is out of the west at 2 15, gusting to 22. And it'll be clear tonight. Diminishing winds. Still very cold stories making headlines in a minute to three. A terrible, terrible tragedy for the American space program. Shortly after it took off from Cape Canaveral, the shuttle challenger exploded in. Flames fell into the Atlantic. Rescue crews are at the scene. There are believed to be no survivors. The crew of seven included the schoolteacher, Christa McAuliffe. President Reagan has postponed until next Tuesday evening his State of the Union address. He will address the nation tonight about the shuttle disaster, and WCBS will be broadcasting that speech. The president has directed Vice President Bush to fly to Cape Canaveral to head an investigation of the explosion. Among those who were shocked, the New Hampshire school students who Christa McAuliffe taught somewhere at the Kennedy Space Center's Others, watched from the school and conquered I'm Ben Farnsworth. CBS News covers the World three CBS News I'm Dick Reeves. Ships and helicopters are still searching for debris from the shuttle Challenger, which blew up soon after launch at Cape Canaveral. Apparently, all seven people on board, including teacher Christa McAuliffe, were killed. As a result of the tragedy, President Reagan has canceled the State of the Union message, which had been scheduled tonight. We have two reports. First, Christopher Glenn at the Cape. The shock has not yet left the senses of anyone here who saw Shuttle Challenger explode in the air little more than a minute into its flight and as yet little is known officially. The questions, though, are legion. Are the seven crew members dead? What caused the explosion? Did the numerous delays on the launch or the freezing weather in Florida have anything to do with it? And what happens to future launches? This was to have been NASA's most ambitious shuttle year. Perhaps some will be answered about a half hour from now, when NASA officials here at the Cape will hold a news conference. In the meantime, there has been no word from the rescue teams out in the Atlantic that any debris has been recovered and not the slightest sign that anyone survived. All the flight data has been impounded for study, and the plan is to bring as much as possible back to the Cape to try to piece the details of the greatest tragedy in space flight history together. I'm Christopher Glenn, CBS News at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. This is Gary Schuster At the White House, White House spokesman Larry Speaks said President Reagan felt that because of today's tragedy, it was appropriate that he postponed his State of the Union address until next Tuesday. Instead, Mr Reagan will speak to the American people about the explosion of the challenger. I think the president, like all Americans, has seen this tragedy unfold on television and has felt keenly, uh, what those family members must have felt watching that shuttle go into the air at at the Cape. First Pride and then second horror, uh, the president has asked Vice President George Bush to fly to Cape Canaveral Space Center to meet with the families of the astronauts. Mr Reagan also indicated he wants the space program to continue. Speak said Mr Reagan feels that the nation could offer no greater tribute to the dedication of the Challenger astronauts than to keep the program going once the cause of today's tragedy is resolved. Gary Schuster, CBS News The White House That's a news conference scheduled a half hour from now will be broadcast over many of these stations more after this. Concord, New Hampshire, where Christa McAuliffe taught, cheered when the shuttle lifted off, then sat in stunned silence as the disaster unfolded on TV screens in front of them. Reporters were ordered out of the school. The students were sent back to their classrooms and later were sent home. Principal Charles Foley said there was not much left for them to do. Pray e don't know. We'll pull it together. We've done it before. Uh, it's not gonna be easy, that's for sure. Uh, we'll we'll talk like we did before, and we'll discuss and and my staff, my terrific staff will come together. Washington, like the rest of the nation in the world, was shocked by the tragedy, Oregon Senator Bob Packwood said. Every so often in the history of the world. Great people give their lives to help the rest of us. That's what those in the space shuttle have done. We are all in their debt forever. Now this illustrated this our that our Jones Industrial Averages up 11.36 Recapping the shuttle story. The search continues in the Atlantic off Cape Canaveral for debris from the shuttle Challenger, which blew up late this morning soon after launch, apparently killing all seven people on board. President Reagan has canceled his State of the Union message tonight. Instead, we'll speak to the American people about today's tragedy. I'm Dick Reeves, CBS News. And of course, we'll continue to follow that story throughout the day For you Here at News Radio 88 will also be telling you more about the fate of Donald Mannis. He has decided to step aside, at least temporarily, students in the classroom. I did do a broadcast of the CBS News, Uh, or whatever thio school. Everyone listen certainly had a sovereign effect on the entire student body because everybody knows that two of our kids are down there watching it. Jennifer Knapp on John Boehner's both 11th grader School. Uh, subsequent to that, I heard from the superintendent's office that on one of the staff members who was with students from McMahon, Cape Canaveral, to the kids are obviously devastated. But all right, doctor for Selena says the Satin group left Florida immediately for the return trip back to Connecticut. French, NATO for WCBS News Soviet Embassy expressed a deep condolences and sympathy for the deaths of the seven astronauts killed. They called it an enormous tragic explosion of the space shuttle Challenger, according to spokesman Boris Malikov. Two hours after the spaceship exploded, he said, On behalf of the embassy, I expressed deep condolences and sympathy to the American people in connection with this enormous tragic accident involving the shuttle challenger. Malikov said the statement was intended for the American people and family members, particularly also, uh, some of the people, some of reaction from people. Senator Jake Garn, who flew aboard the space shuttle Discovery nine months ago, was moved to tears today at the news of the explosion of the shuttle challenger. The Utah Republican described the seven astronauts as his friends and said, I don't know any time that I've been so shocked and so moved since my first wife was killed in a car accident with his Discovery crew insignia pinned to his lapel, Garn said while he was aware of the inherent danger of the shuttle launch, he and the crew of his flight never discussed it. He said. You just always assumed that everything would go right, He added. I would go again. Garden referred to Mike Smith, the pilot of the down shuttle, as my mother hen. He watched my first launch and said all of the others were people I knew, particularly Mike. I learned to love. Guard, who chairs the subcommittee that funds NASA, said today's disaster should not deter the space program, including the civilian in space program in which Christa McAuliffe, the first teacher in space, was the initial participant. Guard expressed the utmost confidence in NASA and its training program and its ability to determine the cause of the accident before continuing the space program. More now about some of the people who were on this flight, the naval aviator Michael Smith, one of the most experienced pilots in the astronaut corps, logged more than 4300 hours and 28 types of aircraft. He was the co pilot of the Challenger flight that ended in flames. It was Smith's first shuttle flight. He was born in Buford, North Carolina. In 1945 earned a bachelor of science degree from the Naval Academy in 67 a master's degree in aeronautical engineering from the U. S. Naval Postgraduate School. In 68 he was married and the father of three Children. He held the Navy Distinguished Flying Cross three air medals in the Vietnamese cross of gallantry with Silver Star. He completed jet training in 1969 and was assigned to Advanced Jet Training Command, where he served as an instructor from 69 to 71. In 1974 he worked on the cruise missile guidance system at the Strike Aircraft Text Directorate, and that's in Patuxent River, Maryland. Before joining NASA as an astronaut in 1980 he completed two tours of duty in the Mediterranean Sea aboard the carrier, U. S s Saratoga