January 28, 2019 – Today marks 33 years since the loss of Space Shuttle Challenger and its crew of seven astronauts. The orbiter broke apart only 73 seconds after launching from Kennedy Space Center on January 28, 1986.
The seven crew members – Commander Francis R. “Dick” Scobee, Pilot Michael J. Smith, Mission Specialists Judith A. Resnik, Ellison S. Onizuka and Ronald E. McNair and Payload Specialist Gregory B. Jarvis and Teacher-in-Space Payload Specialist Christa McAuliffe – were part of the first Teacher in Space Project. The NASA program, announced by President Ronald Reagan in 1984, was designed to inspire students, honor teachers, and spur interest in math, science and space exploration.
As President Ronald Reagan said on the day of the tragedy, “The crew of the Space Shuttle Challenger honored us by the manner in which they lived their lives. We will never forget them.”
Ellison Onizuka received his bachelor’s and masters’ degree from the Department of Aerospace Engineering Sciences (AES) at the University of Colorado Boulder. The University remembers Onizuka at an annual ceremony held in January, and with the Challenger Onizuka Memorial on the north side of the College of Engineering and Applied Science building near Folsom Street.
Before the tragedy, Challenger made history by carrying Sally Ride, the first American woman in space (STS-7) and Guion Bluford, the first African-American in Space (STS-8). Challenger’s other notable firsts included using lightweight external tanks and solid rocket boosters (STS-6), first spacewalk from a Shuttle (STS-6), first deployment of a tracking data relay satellite (STS-7), first night launch and landing of a Shuttle (STS-8), first untethered spacewalk (STS-41B), and first in-flight capture, repair and release of a satellite (STS-41C). Kathryn Sullivan became the first woman to walk in space (STS-41G).