Challenger’s Firsts

By | Jun 24, 2011

Many may remember the Space Shuttle Challenger as being the first shuttle to be destroyed, when it exploded 1 minute 13 seconds into its flight on January 28, 1986. Francis R. (Dick) Scobee, Commander, Michael J. Smith, pilot, mission specialist Judith A. Resnik, Ellison S. Onizuka and Ronald McNair, payload specialist Gregory B. Jarvis and teacher Sharon Christa McAuliffe, all of the members of its crew, lost their lives that day.

The Challenger also had some great firsts as well. On June 24, 1983, on its second mission, the first female American who went into space, Sally Ride, returned to earth at Edwards Air Force Base. The mission began on June 18th and lasted a total of 6 days, 2 hours, 23 minutes and 59 seconds.

The Challenger also became the first to carry two women into space in October 1984 with Kathryn D. Sullivan and Sally Ride who made her second and last flight. On that flight Kathryn Sullivan became the first American woman to walk in space.

Even its first flight had a first. During that flight in April of 1983, the first spacewalk from a shuttle was performed by Donald Peterson and F. Story Musgrave. This mission also was the first to use a new lightweight external tank.

Prior to its 4th mission in February 1984 all space walks required the walker to be tethered to a capsule or shuttle. During this flight Bruce McCandless performed the first untethered walk using the Manned Maneuvering Unit, a small rocket propulsion backpack.

In all the Space Shuttle Challenger had 10 space fights (9 successful and its final disastrous one) including three of the first four missions that helped put Spacelab into orbit.


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