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It was during the morning of 28 January 1986 that the U.S. space shuttle Challenger exploded after take off at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The flight lasted only 73 seconds due to the failure of a rubber seal in one of the shuttle's twin booster rockets which triggered an explosion killing all seven crew members on board. The accident exposed design shortcomings and operational problems in the U.S. space program but also helped develop the commercial space transportation industry. Just months after the disaster, families of the Challenger astronauts established the Challenger Center for Space Science Education, which today includes more than 40 Learning Centers – including one in Canada at the Ontario Science Centre, Toronto – focusing on science, technology, engineering and math.
It took nearly two months before the remains were recovered from the ocean floor, about 18 miles off the shore of Cape Canaveral, Florida. In May 1986, the remains of all seven astronauts were buried at Arlington National Cemetery. On 12 June 1986, the 99th United States Congress passed a "concurrent resolution expressing… that the Secretary of the Army should place an appropriate memorial marker in Arlington National Cemetery honoring members of the crew of the Space Shuttle Challenger who died during the launch of the spacecraft on January 28, 1986." Accordingly, it was decided by the family members of the seven Challenger astronauts and NASA to erect the memorial over the cremated remains located in Section 46. A dedication ceremony was held on the morning of 21 March 1987 in the presence of the family members, 400 people, including then Vice President and Mrs. George Bush. The memorial's tablet, sculpted by Donald A. Borja and designed by Sarah A. LeClerc, illustrates the faces and names of the crew members - listed clockwise from 12:00:
Francis R. (Dick) Scobee / Commander / Washington / May 19, 1939
Ronald E. McNair / Mission Specialist / South Carolina / October 21, 1950
S. Christa McAuliffe / Payload Specialist / New Hampshire / September 2, 1948
Gregory B. Jarvis / Payload Specialist / Michigan / August 24, 1944
Judith A. Resnik / Mission Specialist / Ohio / April 5, 1949
Elliston S. Onizuka / Mission Specialist / Hawaii / June 24, 1946
Michael J. Smith / Pilot / North Carolina / April 30, 1945
IN GRATEFUL / AND LOVING TRIBUTE / TO THE BRAVE CREW / OF THE UNITED STATES / SPACE SHUTTLE CHALLENGER / 28 JANUARY 1986
On this day, 28 January 2022, we commemorate the 36th anniversary of the explosion of the U.S. space shuttle Challenger and continue to honour the seven crew members who lost their lives.
André M. Levesque