In 28 January 1986 the Space Shuttle Challenger blasted off from Kennedy Space Center in Florida on a mission to deploy a number of tracking and relay satellites and the SPARTAN 203 experiment, a deploy-and-recoverable experiment designed to study Halley's Comet. The mission was also carrying the Shuttle Program's first ever civilian passenger, school-teacher Christa McAuliffe, as part of the Shuttle Student Involvement Program, intended to let school-children design experiments for, and interact with, the space program.
73 seconds after launch the shuttle exploded catastrophically, killing all seven crew members on board. This was later found to be due to a faulty seal (O-ring) on one of the solid boosters.
26 years later new footage of the incident has emerged. This was filmed by amateur cameraman Jeffrey Ault, and has been released under license from Ault by the Huffington Post.
New footage of the Challenger Shuttle Disaster. Jeffrey Ault/Huffington Post.
After the Challenger Disaster the Shuttle Fleet was grounded for two years while the incident was investigated. The loss of Challenger shook NASA badly, as they had never before launched a manned mission which had failed to reach space. The Shuttle Program went on till 2011, with the final mission landing in July of that year. There is currently no clear replacement for the Space Shuttle, and it seems unlikely that the US Government will be willing to fund any similar program in the foreseeable future.
The Mission Badge for the final Challenger Mission: STS-51-L.