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Listen: The Legacy of NASA's Shuttle Program in Texas and Beyond

Image via NASA (Public Domain)
Challenger taking off from the launch pad in 1986.

From Texas Standard:

Today in 1986, the Challenger space shuttle broke apart over the coast of Cape Canaveral, Florida. Just 73 seconds after the shuttle's lift-off, its seven crew members were dead.

It was the fault of one small rubber O-ring that sealed booster joints at ignition. Shuttle engineers knew it could become brittle in cold temperatures and, after seeing the weather forecast for the day, tried to stop the launch. But NASA went ahead with the launch as scheduled.


Then, on February 1, 2003, seven more shuttle crew members died when the Columbia spacecraft reentered the Earth's atmosphere. A hole had been punctured in the leading edge of one of Columbia's wings. The shuttle didn't last the intense heat of re-entry.

In 2004, President George W. Bush announced NASA would close the shuttle program in the next six or seven years.

The program ended in 2011. At that time, Nathan Bernier created this tribute to the program for KUT News.

Nathan Bernier is the transportation reporter at KUT. He covers the big projects that are reshaping how we get around Austin, like the I-35 overhaul, the airport's rapid growth and the multibillion-dollar transit expansion Project Connect. He also focuses on the daily changes that affect how we walk, bike and drive around the city. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on X @KUTnathan.
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