The Man Who Tried to Stop the Space Shuttle Challenger’s Launch

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration was preparing the space shuttle Challenger for launch on the morning of Jan. 28, 1986. It was an unusually cold morning for Cape Canaveral, Fla.—too cold, warned the engineers of NASA contractor Morton Thiokol, builder of the shuttle’s solid rocket motors. The engineers knew that the rubber O-rings on the rocket could become brittle in cold weather, causing hot fuel gases to leak and potentially causing an explosion. They were right. Seventy-three seconds after liftoff, the shuttle with seven astronauts on board, including teacher Christa McAuliffe, blew up.