Seventy-three seconds after lift-off, on JANUARY 28, 1986, the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded, killing its entire seven member crew, which included a high school teacher-the first private citizen to fly aboard the craft.
In his address to the nation, President Ronald Reagan stated:
“Today is a day for mourning…a national loss…The members of the Challenger crew were pioneers . . . The future doesn’t belong to the fainthearted; it belongs to the brave. The Challenger crew was pulling us into the future.”
President Reagan continued:
“There’s a coincidence today. On this day 390 years ago, the great explorer Sir Francis Drake died aboard ship off the coast of Panama. In his lifetime the great frontiers were the oceans, and a historian later said, ‘He lived by the sea, died on it, and was buried in it.’ Well, today we can say of the Challenger crew: Their dedication was, like Drake’s, complete.”
“The crew of the space shuttle Challenger honored us by the manner in which they lived their lives. We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for their journey and waved good-bye and ‘slipped the surly bonds of earth’ to ‘touch the face of God.'”