“We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for their journey and waved goodbye and ‘slipped the surly bonds of Earth’ to ‘touch the face of God.'”—U.S. President Ronald Reagan
Despite warnings from flight engineers that cold weather and ice should have led to a delay in the launch, a decision was made by NASA executives to launch the Space Shuttle Challenger thirty one years ago today.
Seventy-three seconds after lift-off, Challenger broke apart after its right-side solid rocket booster (SRB) sprung a fuel leak (caused in part by the cold weather and ice) which melted a steel brace that held it in place, which allowed the SRB to swing wildly and slam into the large central fuel tank which was still mostly full of fuel.
The entire construction broke apart within seconds, and the crew cabin that carried Francis R. Scobee, Michael J. Smith, Ronald McNair, Ellison Onizuka, Judith Resnik, Gregory Jarvis, and Christa McAuliffe, continued on for two minutes and 45 seconds when it slammed into the ocean at more than 200 miles per hour. All seven died.
President Ronald Reagan scrapped his scheduled State of the Union address and instead delivered a speech written by Peggy Noonan live from the Oval Office. It is often included on lists of the greatest speeches in American history.
The Challenger disaster came 19 years and one day after NASA’s one previous fatal incident, the Apollo 1 launch rehearsal crew cabin fire, which killed Virgil I. “Gus” Grissom, Edward H. White II, and Roger B. Chaffee.
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“It was three in the morning and two in the afternoon, making a grand total of five in the evening.”—The Goon Show
The final regular episode of The Goon Show aired on this date in 1960 on BBC Radio. Spike Milligan, Harry Secombe, and Peter Sellers were the stars of 238 half-hour shows broadcast over a decade. Milligan created just about every episode. The program’s influence on comedy is felt to this day.
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On this date in 1985, the single “We Are the World” was recorded. Within one week, the song was written, invitations sent out to singers, lines were cast to each singer’s voice, and the song recorded. The single was written by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie and produced by Quincy Jones.
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Red Grange died on this date in 1991. Joseph Brodsky died on this date in 1996. Jim Capaldi died on this date in 2005. Paul Kantner died one year ago today.
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Colette was born on this date in 1873. Jackson Pollock was born on this date in 1912. Acker Bilk was born on this date in 1929.
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Claes Oldenburg is 88 today. Bill White is 83. David Lodge is 82 today. Alan Alda is 81 today. Carlos Slim is 77. Gregg Popovich is 68 today. Barbi Benton is 67. Randi Rhodes is 58. Sarah McLachlan is 49. “Building a Mystery”:
Mo Rocca is 48. Elijah Wood of Cedar Rapids, Iowa is 36 today.
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