There are news events that take place as we live our lives that affect us to the point that we always remember where we were when we first heard the news.

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For my generation, the first such event was the assassination of President Kennedy on November 22, 1963 (I was a fifth grader at New London Elementary School).

For our children, that first earth-shattering national tragedy came on January 28, 1986, when the space shuttle Challenger blew apart and fell into the Atlantic Ocean.

You know the basics - seven astronauts, including teacher Christa McAuliffe, died and the NASA Space Shuttle program was put on hold for some time.

I ran across an article on the Challenger disaster at, and found out some things about what happened that day that I didn't know, and maybe you didn't either.

First, did you know the Challenger didn't actually explode? What looked like an explosion was a fireball caused by liquid oxygen and hydrogen igniting when the infamous O-ring seal failed and the fuel tank tore apart.

Second, the astronauts didn't die instantly. Experts guess the seven survived the initial break-up of the Challenger, but probably died quickly due to a loss of cabin pressure and a lack of oxygen.

Third, not a lot of people actually saw the Challenger disaster on live television. Shuttle launches had become pretty routine by then, and the Challenger launched just after 10:30 a.m. Central Time. Because of Christa McAuliffe's presence on the crew, NASA had arranged for the launch to be broadcast in schools, so a lot of school children witnessed the disaster.

Fourth, the State of Union Address by President Reagan was to have taken place that night, but it was postponed (the only time that's ever happened). Instead, Reagan addressed the nation, giving arguably his most memorable speech.

And, two large pieces of the Challenger washed ashore more than a decade after the disaster. Within a couple of months of the tragedy, the most important pieces of the shuttle had been retrieved from the Atlantic. Ten years later, two pieces of the shuttle's left wing flap washed up on Cocoa Beach, 20 miles south of the Kennedy Space Center.

What do you remember about January 28, 1986?

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