Jan. 28, 1986: Space shuttle Challenger disaster

Just 73 seconds into liftoff, the NASA space shuttle exploded, killing all seven crew members.
3:00 | 01/16/18

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Transcript for Jan. 28, 1986: Space shuttle Challenger disaster
It is the worst disaster in the history of the American space program and President Reagan has declared a week of mourning for the seven astronauts. Five men and two women who lost their lives on their way in to space this morning. Now we know that many of you heard the news many hours ago and may even have seen some of art extended coverage this afternoon. But many others of you we surmise have been at work in this regard to spend virtually our entire broadcast this evening. On what he is not only a crushing really sad day for family is friends and colleagues of the astronauts. But also an enormous shock to the manned space program. Which before today had gone so well never before have American lives been lost in flight. We will try to answer many of your questions but as of this evening many questions remain unanswered. We begin at Cape Canaveral with ABC's John Kenyans. They gathered for what turned out to be their last meal let 6:48 this morning the ceremonial breakfast. Or months they had trained together astronaut Ellison on his Loko from Hawaii. The star of this mission New Hampshire schoolteacher Christa McAuliffe. Mission commander Dick Scobee. Pilot Michael Smith. Astronauts Judith Resnick and Ronald McNair and payload specialist Gregory Jarvis. After three days of delays they appeared tired but quickly rejuvenated by applause. As they headed for the launch. Only here. Pilot Mike Smith followed by Christine college teacher in space. Ellison owns and and paying attention to make you nervous. Final preparations before lift off the ground crew gives McAuliffe and apple and apple for the teacher and wishes of good luck. Initially liftoff was scheduled for 9:38 this morning but again there were problems all hard freeze overnight. Left ice on the launch pad a two hour delay. And then NASA discovers a faulty fire detector on board the shuttle. Another hour's delay while it's replaced. Finally the liftoff was set for 1138. A crowd of some 500 spectators including. Eighteen visiting school children from McAuliffe's hometown of Concord, New Hampshire. Waited anxiously. And then counted down. Liftoff appeared flawless. The spectators including Christa McAuliffe's parents grace and Edward Horrigan watched proudly. News of George. 65 seconds into flight NASA control orders commanders will be vulnerable Paul Hunter code. Carter. Suddenly an explosion. I controllers are looking very carefully the situation. Obviously in later malfunction. NASA loses all communication with challenger but the crowd still does not realize that something's gone Iraq. Within seconds challenger disintegrates. We have a report from a flight dynamics officer that the vehicle has exploded. For the spectators and Christa McAuliffe's parents. Joy turns to them. And a realization of tragedy. The one point two billion dollar space ship its seven crew members and their satellite payload disappear. I thought if I was quite find. And then I heard them say a major malfunction and the person beside me said it's exploded and it was. I couldn't speak. It was. Within minutes emergency rescue teams parachuted end converging on a search area eighteen miles east of Cape Canaveral. Degree continue to fall. Fifteen minutes or more ups and obviously you can't sell aircraft. Ships in the area recoveries for what they've made they themselves in danger. Late this afternoon after six hours of searching NASA reports they found no survivors. These searches could not reveal any evidence. That the crew of challenger survived. Tonight NASA and Cape Canaveral. Or in morning. Tonight at Cape Canaveral vice President George Bush accompanied by senators Jake garner and John Glenn both former astronauts express the nation's condolences to the families of the astronauts. Bush had a special message for American school children. Humans try to understand. That spirit. Bravery and commitment. Are what make not only the space program. But all of life worthwhile. We must never. As people in our daily lives there as a nation. Stop exploring. Stop hoping to stop the government we must press sought. John Quinones ABC news Cape Canaveral.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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