The day CHALLENGER shattered the sky

BETA cassette Challenger News Footage

My housemate, Charles, had this BETA cassette of news coverage he recorded on the day the CHALLENGER shattered the sky. I’ve done a lot of watching of old footage, and was grateful to discover that what’s on this tape isn’t available online anywhere, at least not yet. I plan on converting the footage to digital/DVD so that it can be preserved at least a little bit longer.

I’m not making light of, exploiting, or glamorizing a national tragedy that broke this nation’s heart. Thirty-six years ago today, the Challenger disaster took seven amazing people and ended an era.

I was a week shy of 15 when it happened, and it profoundly affected me—and still does. In an odd sort of way, the shock of that moment foreshadowed the one that was to come just a few months later, when my mother passed. For many GenXers, it was our first experience with death, and a day we’d rather not contemplate.

My short story, “Nothing to See Here”—just released in the Generation X-ed anthology—opens on that tragic day, and so when I was writing it, I did a lot of contemplating on that event and the impact it had on so many things.

For the victims’ loved ones, the experience was ruinous, and we can’t pretend to know how deep their grief/suffering was/is. For the rest of us? It’s human to want to forget terrible moments. Some think that “moving on” requires you to forget. I’ve never really believed that. I think “moving on” is more about making peace with it, and recalling those lessons learned every once in a while to remind you how far you’ve come.

Below, a list of resources if you’d like to know more about the Challenger disaster—whether you were alive and remember it, or weren’t born yet. Either way, it’s important to recognize that, as then-President Reagan pointed out in his landmark speech, [painful things are] all part of the process of exploration and discovery … the future doesn’t belong to the faint-hearted. It belongs to the brave.”

It’s our job to honor those brave by never forgetting what they sacrificed.


Challenger - The Final Flight Poster

Documentary: Challenger: The Final Flight – A Netflix original four-hour docuseries released in 2020 that focuses on the family members and others behind the scenes. Trailer:

Virtual Live Chat about Netflix Docuseries Challenger: The Final Flight (2020) – a virtual conversation with filmmakers and subjects of the Netflix docuseries, hosted by The Challenger Center, a non-profit for education established by the crew’s family members to honor and continue their legacy.

The Challenger Center: A non-profit for education established by the crew’s family members to honor and continue their legacy.

Documentary: Challenger: A Rush to Launch (2016) This hour, released on the disaster’s 30th anniversary, examines the influences and factors on the chain of decisions that lead to NASA going ahead with the launch despite engineers’ recommendations to scrub. In addition, there’s a fascinating break down of what technically happened inside the booster.

Documentary: Seconds from Disaster: The Challenger Space Shuttle (2007) An episode of the popular series that reconstructs the events and factors leading up to catastrophes.

News: ABC Live News Coverage of Launch (1/28/86) This is the original footage—and the broadcast my mother was watching when it happened. This is the one I prefer, just because there are no anchors talking over the event—it’s just the communications between NASA and the crew. Additionally, there are shots of debris falling into the ocean.

News: President Reagan’s Challenger Disaster Speech (1/28/86) The President was supposed to present the State of the Union Address. Instead, with a heavy heart, he comforted the nation. Whether you liked him as a leader or not, I don’t think anyone could argue that this man made you feel like he was talking directly to you and you alone, and that’s clearly evident here.

Photo Essay: NBC News, The Challenger Tragedy in Pictures This slideshow contains the most iconic photos of before, during, and after the disaster.

The Time it Takes to Fall

Fiction: The Time it Takes to Fall, by Margaret Lazarus Dean (2007) A coming-of-age novel set against the backdrop of the Challenger disaster.

About kristipetersenschoonover

A ghost story writer who still sleeps with the lights on, Kristi Petersen Schoonover’s fiction has appeared in many magazines and anthologies; her traditionally published books include a short story collection, THE SHADOWS BEHIND. She was the recipient of three Norman Mailer Writers Colony Residencies and holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Goddard College. She serves as co-host of the DARK DISCUSSIONS podcast, as founding editor of the dark literary journal 34 ORCHARD, and is a member of the New England Horror Writers. Follow her adventures at

Posted on January 28, 2022, in Deep Thoughts & Fun Stuff and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. When I first heard about the Challenger, I didn’t believe it. Total denial. It was too sad to accept all at once.

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