Christa McAuliffe was a civilian teacher and payload specialist who died in the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger on Jan. 28, 1986. McAuliffe was selected for the position as part of NASA's Teacher in Space program and would have given video lessons from orbit. A faulty O-ring in one of the shuttle's solid rocket boosters failed shortly after liftoff, destroying the shuttle and killing its crew.Continue Reading
Before becoming an astronaut, McAuliffe had been a middle and high school teacher for 15 years. In order to inspire students to learn more about math and science, President Ronald Reagan initiated a program in 1984 that would select a teacher to fly into space on the shuttle. McAuliffe was selected and underwent astronaut training in 1985 for her flight.
On the morning of Jan. 28, 1986, the extremely cold temperatures at the shuttle launch pad damaged the rubber O-rings that protected the solid rocket boosters during the flight. When the shuttle lifted off, hot gases were able to escape from the damaged joint in the rocket, burning through the external fuel tank and igniting the fuel within. The space shuttle exploded 73 seconds after launch, completely destroying the vehicle. There were no survivors.Learn more about Space Travel
Only three people have actually died in outer space, as of 2014. During the 1971 flight of the Soyuz 11, three Soviet cosmonauts died when a ventilation valve ruptured, asphyxiating the crew and exposing them to the vacuum of space.Full Answer >
The first U.S. space shuttle to orbit the Earth was Columbia. It launched on April 12, 1981, from Kennedy Space Center. Crewed by astronauts John W. Young and Robert L. Crippen, it remained in orbit two days before landing safely, airplane-like, at Edwards Air Force Base in California.Full Answer >
Astronauts float in space because they and the spacecraft in which they are traveling are orbiting the Earth in a free-fall trajectory that matches the curvature of the planet. By free falling around the Earth, the astronauts and their spacecraft avoid burning up in the atmosphere.Full Answer >
There is no specific time for getting into outer space as it depends on the type of technology used in a mission, the destination and the position of the planets. Another factor to consider is the distance from Earth to the destination; for example, Mars is the second closest planet to Earth after Venus. However, the distance keeps changing as the planets rotate around the sun.Full Answer >