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This story ran in The Boston Globe Jan. 29, 1986, the day after space shuttle Challenger exploded shortly after takeoff, the last major disaster of the US space program.
The final words
aunch Control: 10-9-8-7-6, we have main engine start; 4-3-2-1, and liftoff. Liftoff of the 25th space shuttle mission. And it has cleared the tower.
Pilot Mike Smith: Roll program.
Mission Control: Roger, roll, Challenger.
Mission Control: Roll program confirmed. Challenger now heading downrange. The engines are throttling down now at 94 percent. Normal throttle for most of the flight is 104 percent. We'll throttle down to 65 percent shortly. Engines at 65 percent. Three engines running normally. Three good fuel cells. Three good APUs (auxiliary power units). Velocity 2,257 feet per second (1,400 miles per hour), altitude 4.3 nautical miles (4.9 statute miles), downrange distance 3 nautical miles (3.4 statute miles). Engines throttling up, three engines now 104 percent.
Mission Control: Challenger, go at throttle up.
Smith: Roger, go at throttle up.
Mission Control: We're at a minute 15 seconds, velocity 2,900 feet per second (1,977 mph) altitude 9 nautical miles (10.35 statute miles), range distance 7 nautical miles (8.05 statute miles)
Mission Control: Flight controllers are looking very carefully at the situation. Obviously a major malfunction. We have no downlink (communications).