Upon further investigation, scientists concluded that an unlikely chain of events caused the tragedy, leading many to consider the mission to be a freak accident. First, the O-ring seal that covered the Challenger’s solid rocket boost failed due to the cold temperature. Then, flames leaked through the O-ring and damaged the external fuel tank, causing the explosion. At 36 degrees Farenheit, the cold weather was the main cause of the accident.
© United States Postal Service. All rights reserved.
© United States Postal Service. All rights reserved.President Reagan’s State of the Union address was scheduled for the night of January 28th, but in light of the Challenger crash he decided to speak on behalf of that tragedy that had unfolded only hours before. Reagan described America’s heavy heart, but at the same time expressed the importance of continuing to set new goals in the space program: “I know it is hard to understand, but sometimes painful things like this happen. It's all part of the process of exploration and discovery. It's all part of taking a chance and expanding man's horizons. The future doesn't belong to the fainthearted; it belongs to the brave. The Challenger crew was pulling us into the future, and we'll continue to follow them.”
Composed By Ryan Sprouls, Web Team Intern & Alexander Haimann, Collections Specialist, Smithsonian National Postal Museum