Less than two minutes after take off, the shuttle Challenger exploded and killed all seven crew members on board.
This was a terrifying image that many still can’t get out of their heads today. For a young Eileen Collins, former Elmira resident and now retired NASA Astronaut, it didn’t stop her from pursuing her dream.
“I was actually driving to class out at Stanford University,” said Collins. “At the time, I have been working on my application, although I hadn’t actually applied yet. As horrible as the accident was, it never changed my mind. I still wanted to be an astronaut.”
One of the crew members, Christa McAuliffe, was going to be the first teacher in space.
“I can’t even imagine,” said Director of the Eileen Collins Observatory at Corning Community College Deborah Dann. “I think they were probably showing it to her students, so I can’t even imagine how her students felt.”
Investigations concluded a burn through on the O-rings is what primarily caused the explosion.
“The cold temperatures would change the O-rings, and they were actually not supposed to launch if the temperature was below freezing,” said Collins. “But, it was below freezing and they launched anyways. So, there were many organizational and really cultural type changes that had to be made at NASA.”
NASA has made those changes to make space exploration more safe.
“It’s just more of a reason to continue on and make ourselves better, make our techniques better, make our equipment better,” said Dann.