In 1986, a new Space Shuttle mission was ready for launch. It would be the first time NASA put a civilian into space, a school teacher by the name of Christa McAuliffe. Onboard the Space Shuttle Challenger was also Francis R. Scobee, Commander; Michael J. Smith, Pilot; Gregory Jarvis, Payload Specialist; Ronald McNair, Ellison Onizuka and Judith Resnik, Mission Specialists.
Soon after launch, however, the Space Shuttle incurred a catastrophic malfunction and exploded within seconds, but what was responsible for it?
After careful analysis of the debris and diagnostics of the other Space Shuttles, the issue was discovered. Investigators found that the side booster rockets had two distinct o-rings that would prevent the gasses from escaping at the joins in the wall, forcing the gasses downwards. If one were to fail there would be another as a backup.
However, the morning of the Challenger's launch was freezing. So cold, in fact, that icicles formed all around the shuttle. This caused the o-rings to harden and not perform optimally. Highly explosive gasses escaped on the side of the booster rocket and ignited, causing an explosion so violent that each component of the Space Shuttle Challenger was instantly incinerated.
Take a look at the video below by the YouTube channel, Discovery UK, on What Caused The Challenger Space Shuttle To Explode? – Disasters Engineered.