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NASA Marks 25th Anniversary of the Challenger Disaster

“This year marks the 25th anniversary of the loss of the Challenger—a tragedy that caused us to completely rethink our systems and processes as we worked to make the shuttle safer,” NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said.

“The nation will never forget Jan. 28, 1986, nor its indelible images,” Bolden added.

Challenger’s entire crew was killed when the shuttle exploded just 73 seconds after its launch, 46,000 feet in the air. The explosion was broadcast on live television.

NASA

Challenger’s entire crew was killed when the shuttle exploded just 73 seconds after its launch, 46,000 feet in the air. The explosion was broadcast on live television.

In 2003, a faulty heat shield caused Columbia to disintegrate as it re-entered the earth’s atmosphere, killing seven astronauts. A fire aboard Apollo 1 proved fatal for the vessel’s crew of three in 1967. This mission was the first of NASA’s manned trips to the moon.

Since 1964, 24 people have been killed in a NASA mission, but NASA says it has learned since then.

“Safety is the number one priority at NASA and the shuttle launch schedule does not drive discussions or decisions when issues arise,” a NASA spokesperson told PCMag. “That is reiterated often and is apparent in media events about the issues.”

Perhaps the most telling example is the recent delays in the coming launch of Space Shuttle Discovery. The ship was originally set to take off on its final voyage on Nov. 1, but due to leaks, inclement weather, electrical issues, and equipment problems, the mission was delayed more than a half a dozen times. It’s now scheduled to lift off Feb. 24.

“NASA has learned hard lessons from each of our tragedies, and they are lessons that we will continue to keep at the forefront of our work as we continuously strive for a culture of safety that will help us avoid our past mistakes and heed warnings while corrective measures are possible,” Bolden said.

After Discovery, the shuttle Endeavor is supposed to launch in April 18, the AFP said. Additionally, if Congress hands over the necessary funds, NASA is hoping to send Space Shuttle Atlantis into orbit for an additional trip.

In October, President Obama signed the 2010 NASA Authorization Act, which added an additional flight to the space shuttle fleet before its retirement The administration is looking at a June launch for Atlantis, but it’s lacking several hundred million dollars necessary to get the ship off the ground.

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