ON JANUARY 28, 1986, only 73 seconds after launching of Mission 51-L, seven crewmembers including a schoolteacher, Christa McAuliffe, died in the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger. A subsequent investigation by the President's Commission on the space shuttle Challenger Accident (the Rogers Commission) concluded that the cause of the Challenger explosion was the failure of the O-ring pressure seal in the spacecraft's right solid rocket booster.

O-ring seals are designed to prevent hot gases from leaking through the joint during the propellant burn of the rocket motor. However, almost immediately after takeoff the O-ring seals were destroyed allowing hot gases to leak through the right solid rocket motor field joint. In the process, the struts linking the solid booster and the external tank began to ...

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