"Tragedy In Space" 27 years ago today.
Ocean, Beach Searched For Pieces Of Shuttle Attention turns to finding reason for tragedy Tragedy In Space United Press International CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (UPI) — Experts examined scraps of metal and tile plucked from the ocean and washed up on the beaches today, trying to determine what triggered the explosion that destroyed the shuttle Challenger and its crew of seven in ' mankind's worst space accident. Challenger was 72 seconds into its 10th mission Tuesday when it disappeared in a mysterious burst of boiling flame and smoke. There was no trace of schoolteacher Christa McAuliffe, the first civilian selected to fly' in space, and her six crewmates. Protective tiles and other debris from Challenger washed up on the Atlantic beaches during the night and eight search ships and seven aircraft scoured a 5,500-square-mile area of the Atlantic for more traces of the spacecraft. The debris was locked up at Patrick Air Force Base for investigators. "There are .pieces ranging from 10 feet long down to pieces you can hold in your hand," said Cmdr. Jim Simpson, a Coast (Juard spokesman. "It's all different sizes and shapes but there's been nothing identified ,is this particular part or that." NASA remained tight-lipped, struggling to organize the investigation into the tragedy. Sen. Jake Garn, R-Utah, who flew on a shuttle mission last year, said today that "with all the telemetering data that comes back and the expertise that they have, the quality of the people that they can draw on to look at this tragedy. I think they will be able to determine exactly what took place. It will take time, though." Frank Borman, former astronaut and now president of Eastern Airlines, was not so hopeful. He recalled the investigation Shuttle Coverage Students react ...... 10 History of problems., 10 Area applicants....,. 10 the shuttle creW.'.'.;.. 7 Family mouriis loss. ' : . .7 Final moments .... '•.. 11 Search efforts....., ,11 Reagan reaction... ..11 with," Borman said. "And yet after five months we could not conclusively determine what caused the fire, so you can see how difficult this investigation will be." It was a national tragedy on a scale unequalled since the assassinations of John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. Newspapers rushed special editions into the streets and President Reagan postponed his State of the Union message, telling the nation in a brief statement that "this is a day for mourning and . remembering" the crew of the Challenger. Dead are commander Francis "Dick" Scobee, 46, whose laconic last words from the Challenger acknowledged an order for full throttle; co-pilot Michael Smith, 40; Judith Resnik, 36; Ellison Onizuka, 39; Ronald McNair, 35; Gregory Jarvis, 41, and Christa McAuliffe, the 37-year-old Concord, N.H., social studies teacher picked from 11,000 other teachers to be the first private citizen in space. NASA said a preliminary look at the engineering reports radioed back from Challenger up two giant solid-fueled booster rockets. An analysis of videotapes of the accident sequence revealed a small ball of orange flame blooming near the bottom of Challenger's 154-foot-long external fuel tank, which was filled with a half-million gallons of liquid hydrogen and oxygen at launch. Then, a fraction of a second later, a second, larger ball of orange fire appeared higher on the other side of the aluminum tank. One second after the initial eruption, the fireballs merged into a bright yellow and red mass of flame that engulfed Challenger. The two booster rockets emerged, apparently intact, from the cloud of fire and smoke and corkscrewed through the sky. Fast Navy frigates, Coast Guard cutters and boats continued their search for wreckage through the night and a fleet of airplanes and helicopters rejoined them at dawn. An investigation board was appointed and everything connected with the launch, even the' scribbled notes and doodles of launch controllers, was impound>d. But engineers at the Mission Control center in Houston and in nearby offices worked all night reviewing the disaster. The nation's leaders and the men behind the space program said the crew of Challenger were pioneers and heroes, and: although there will be no more launches until the cause of their; deaths is known, grief must not stop the quest for the stars. But the loss of Challenger and crew was a devastating blow to the space program at a time when shuttles were scheduled to fly at better than a flight-a-month pace. It was unknown when a