This content is no longer being updated. As a result, you may encounter broken links or information that may not be up-to-date. For more information contact us.

January 28, 1986

Space shuttle Challenger explodes 73 seconds after liftoff

An O-ring seal on Challenger's right solid rocket booster failed due to, among other causes, very cold temperatures at the launch site. Morgan watched as the crew of seven, including McAuliffe, perished.

President Reagan assured the nation that, "There will be more shuttle flights and more shuttle crews and, yes, more volunteers, more civilians, more teachers in space. Nothing ends here; our hopes and our journeys continue."

But the political reality was otherwise.

Destruction of the shuttle Challenger January 28, 1986 The crew of flight 51-L

Bill HarwoodIt became very obvious that NASA viewed the risk of shuttle flight as too high to put a common civilian . . . on board," says Harwood of CBS. "They wanted people with professional qualities that you needed for the mission and it looked to us, or it looked to me personally, that the teacher in space program would never happen and that Barbara Morgan would never get a chance to fly."

Friends, though, held out hope when they heard NASA Administrator James Fletcher on The MacNeil Lehrer Newshour say he thought Barbara Morgan would be the next civilian in space, when NASA determined it was safe.

And Morgan herself remained undaunted, as can be seen in this 1986 interview with Bruce Reichert of Idaho Reports.

While Morgan continued to teach and make special presentations for NASA, 12 more years would go by.