On April 4, 1983, the Space Shuttle Challenger lifted off on its first space mission, the second orbiter to be put into service after the Columbia.
The Space Shuttle Challenger was named after the British ship HMS Challenger, which between 1872 and 1876 led a marine research expedition. Initially, a Structural Test Article (STA-099) was built, a spaceship that was used for various flight test, which was later converted into a fully operational space shuttle. For this reason, the Challenger had the designation Orbiter Vehicle OV-99.
During the first space mission of the Space Shuttle Challenger, designated as STS-6, there was the first spacewalk of the mission in a space shuttle.
The second space mission of the Space Shuttle Challenger, which started on June 18, 1983 and was designated as STS-7, included in its crew Sally Ride, the first American astronaut woman to go into space.
The third space mission of the Space Shuttle Challenger, which started on August 30, 1983 and was designated as STS-8, included in the crew Guion Bluford, the first African-American astronaut to go into space. It was also the first space shuttle mission launched and arrived in the night.
During the fourth space mission of the Space Shuttle Challenger, which started on February 3, 1984 and was designated as STS-41-B, took place the first spacewalk without a rope, using the Manned Maneuvering Unit backpack propulsion.
The sixth space mission of the Space Shuttle Challenger, which started on October 5, 1984 and was designated as STS-41-G, included in the crew two women, again Sally Ride and Kathryn Sullivan, and the first Canadian to go into space, Marc Garneau. Kathryn Sullivan became the first woman to perform a spacewalk.
On 28 January 1986 the Space Shuttle Challenger started its tenth mission, designated as STS-51-L, but exploded shortly after lift off due to the failure of a O-ring seal in its right Solid-fuel Rocket Booster (SRB). A kind of domino effect in the tanks failures led to the destruction of the Challenger and the death of the crew.
The Space Shuttle Challenger was an amazing machine but still a machine so it seems right to end this remembrance with the names of the members of that crew:
- Mission Commander: Francis R. Scobee
- Pilot: Michael J. Smith
- Mission Specialist 1: Judith Resnik
- Mission Specialist 2: Ellison Onizuka
- Mission Specialist 2: Ronald McNair
- Payload Specialist 1: Gregory Jarvis
- Payload Specialist 2: Christa McAuliffe