Thirty years ago today, the Space Shuttle Challenger lifted off on a bright clear day, carrying seven astronauts. On board was the first teacher in space, New Hampshire native Christa McAuliffe. Her parents were at the launch site, watching as the shuttle lifted higher into the air. 73 seconds after lift off there was a terrible explosion. Spectators on the ground knew that something had gone wrong, but the magnitude of what had happened was not immediately known.
We now know that it was O-rings in the solid rocket fuel boosters that failed and caused the explosion. They were not tested at such low temperatures and the weather was cold the day of the launch. The accident resulted in a 32-month halt of NASA spaceflights and a complete overhaul of the shuttle program. The Rodgers Commission, formed at the direction of the President, investigated and found that the organizational culture at NASA impacted the decision-making process and that key managers had ignored warnings about the solid rocket booster seals and low temperatures.