The crew compartment and many other vehicle fragments were eventually recovered from the ocean floor after a lengthy search and recovery operation. The exact timing of the death of the crew is unknown; several crew members are known to have survived the initial breakup of the spacecraft. The shuttle had no escape system, and the impact of the crew compartment with the ocean surface was too violent to be survivable.
The disaster resulted in a 32-month hiatus in the shuttle program and the formation of the Rogers Commission, a special commission appointed byUnited States President Ronald Reagan to investigate the accident. The Rogers Commission found NASA's organizational culture and decision-making processes had been key contributing factors to the accident. NASA managers had known contractor Morton Thiokol's design of the SRBs contained a potentially catastrophic flaw in the O-rings since 1977, but failed to address it properly. They also disregarded warnings (an example of "go fever") from engineers about the dangers of launching posed by the low temperatures of that morning and had failed in adequately reporting these technical concerns to their superiors.
What Rogers did not highlight was that the vehicle was never certified to operate in temperatures that low. The O-rings, as well as many other critical components, had no test data to support any expectation of a successful launch in such conditions. Bob Ebeling from Thiokol delivered a biting analysis: "[W]e're only qualified to 40 degrees ...'what business does anyone even have thinking about 18 degrees, we're in no man's land.'"
As a result of the disaster, the Air Force decided to cancel its plans to use the Shuttle for classified military satellite launches from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, deciding to use the Titan IV instead.
Approximately 17 percent of Americans witnessed the launch live because of the presence of crew member Christa McAuliffe, the first member of the Teacher in Space Project, who would have been the first teacher in space. Media coverage of the accident was extensive: one study reported that 85 percent of Americans surveyed had heard the news within an hour of the accident. The Challenger disaster has been used as a case study in many discussions of engineering safety and workplace ethics.
Each of the two Space Shuttle Solid Rocket Boosters (SRBs) that comprised part of the Space Transportation System was constructed of seven sections, six of which were permanently joined in pairs at the factory. For each flight, the four resulting segments were then assembled in the Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy Space Center (KSC), with three field joints. The factory joints were sealed with asbestos-silica insulation applied over the joint, while each field joint was sealed with two rubber O-rings. (After the destruction of Challenger, the number of O-rings per field joint was increased to three.) The seals of all of the SRB joints were required to contain the hot high-pressure gases produced by the burning solid propellant inside, forcing it out the nozzle at the aft end of each rocket.
During the Space Shuttle…