At 11:38 a.m. EST, on January 28, 1986, the space shuttle Chanllenger lifted off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, and Christa McAuliffe was on her way to becoming the first ordinary U.S. civilian to travel into space. Christa was a 37 year old high school social studies teacher from New Hampshire who won a competition that earned her a place among the seven member crew of the Challenger. She underwent months of shuttle training but then, beginning January 23, was forced to wait six long days as the Challenger's launch countdown was repeatedly delayed because of weather and technical problems. Finally , on January 28, the shuttle lifted off with Christa McAuliffe and Astronauts Mike Smith, Dick Scobee, Ron McNair, Ellison Onizuka, Greg Jarvis, and Judith Resnik.
Seventy three seconds later, hundreds on the ground, including Christa's family, stared in disbelief as the shuttle exploded in a forking plume of smoke and fire. Millions more watched in horror as the tragedy unfolded on live television. There were no survivors.