“Only” Amateur Video Of Challenger Disaster Released


What the has been reported to be the only amateur film in existence of the January 28, 1986, Space Shuttle Challenger disaster has become public after nearly 25 years spent in a Florida basement. Retired optometrist Jack Moss shot the video from his home in Winter Haven, Florida, about 80 miles from Challenger’s Cape Canaveral launch site. Moss, who passed away in December from Cancer, reportedly told his pastor that he could have the tape when he died. “It took a while to find someone with an old Betamax video player,” Moss’s pastor told a reporter at the Guardian newspaper, “but when I found the Challenger film my reaction was that people really have to see this.” As fate would have hit, Moss’s pastor was Marc Wessels, who is also executive director of the Space Exploration Archive, a Kentucky-based group that collects space memorabelia for the purpose of education. Wessels’ reaction to the film was acute and the film was quickly made public.

The space shuttle Challenger was the second orbiter to join NASA’s fleet. It arrived at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida in July 1982. It became the first orbiter to launch and land at night and saw the first spacewalk of the space shuttle program. It was lost January 28, 1986, just 73 seconds into mission STS 51-L. Six astronauts and school teacher Christa McAuliffe, the first member of the Teacher in Space project, were killed. The vehicle flew that day after sitting overnight in cold temperatures and launched when the temperature was 36 degrees — about 15 degrees colder than any previous launch.

A presidential commission found that “the cause of the Challenger accident was the failure of the pressure seal in the aft field joint of the right Solid Rocket Booster. The failure was due to a faulty design unacceptably sensitive to a number of factors. These factors were the effects of temperature, physical dimensions, the character of materials, the effects of resusability, processing and the reaction of the joint to dynamic loading.” Find the report’s “Cause of the Accident” online, here.

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Click for our video on how the tape came to light.