Speech on the Challenger Disaster (2023)

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Ladies and Gentlemen, I’d planned to speak to you tonight to report on the state of the Union, but the events of earlier today have led me to change those plans. Today is a day for mourning and remembering. Nancy and I are pained to the core by the tragedy of the shuttle Challenger. We know we share this pain with all of the people of our country. This is truly a national loss.

Nineteen years ago, almost to the day, we lost three astronauts in a terrible accident on the ground. But, we’ve never lost an astronaut in flight; we’ve never had a tragedy like this. And perhaps we’ve forgotten the courage it took for the crew of the shuttle; but they, the Challenger Seven, were aware of the dangers, but overcame them and did their jobs brilliantly. We mourn seven heroes: Michael Smith, Dick Scobee, Judith Resnik, Ronald McNair, Ellison Onizuka, Gregory Jarvis, and Christa McAuliffe. We mourn their loss as a nation together.

For the families of the seven, we cannot bear, as you do, the full impact of this tragedy. But we feel the loss, and we’re thinking about you so very much. Your loved ones were daring and brave, and they had that special grace, that special spirit that says, “give me a challenge and I’ll meet it with joy.” They had a hunger to explore the universe and discover its truths. They wished to serve, and they did. They served all of us.

We’ve grown used to wonders in this century. It’s hard to dazzle us. But for twenty-five years the United States space program has been doing just that. We’ve grown used to the idea of space, and perhaps we forget that we’ve only just begun. We’re still pioneers. They, the member of the Challenger crew, were pioneers.

And I want to say something to the schoolchildren of America who were watching the live coverage of the shuttle’s takeoff. I know it is hard to understand, but sometimes painful things like this happen. It’s all part of the process of exploration and discovery. It’s all part of taking a chance and expanding man’s horizons. The future doesn’t belong to the fainthearted; it belongs to the brave. The Challenger crew was pulling us into the future, and we’ll continue to follow them.

I’ve always had great faith in and respect for our space program, and what happened today does nothing to diminish it. We don’t hide our space program. We don’t keep secrets and cover things up. We do it all up front and in public. That’s the way freedom is, and we wouldn’t change it for a minute. We’ll continue our quest in space. There will be more shuttle flights and more shuttle crews and, yes, more volunteers, more civilians, more teachers in space. Nothing ends here; our hopes and our journeys continue. I want to add that I wish I could talk to every man and woman who works for NASA or who worked on this mission and tell them: “Your dedication and professionalism have moved an impressed us for decades. And we know of your anguish. We share it.”

There’s a coincidence today. On this day 390 years ago, the great explorer Sir Francis Drake died aboard ship off the coast of Panama. In his lifetime the great frontiers were the oceans, and a historian later said, “He lived by the sea, died on it, and was buried in it.” Well, today we can say of the challenger crew: Their dedication was, like Drake’s, complete.

(Video) President Reagan on Space Shuttle Challenger Explosion (C-SPAN)

The crew of the space shuttle Challenger honored us by the manner in which they lived their lives. We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for the journey and waved goodbye and “slipped the surly bonds of earth” to “touch the face of God.”

Three days later, President Reagan delivered the following remarks at a memorial service held in Houston following the Challenger disaster, Jan. 31, 1986.

We come together today to mourn the loss of seven brave Americans, to share the grief we all feel and, perhaps in that sharing, to find the strength to bear our sorrow and the courage to look for the seeds of hope.

Our nation’s loss is first a profound personal loss to the family and the friends and loved ones of our shuttle astronauts. To those they have left behind – the mothers, the fathers, the husbands and wives, brothers, sisters, and yes, especially the children – all of America stands beside you in your time of sorrow.

What we say today is only an inadequate expression of what we carry in our hearts. Words pale in the shadow of grief; they seem insufficient even to measure the brave sacrifice of those you loved and we so admired. Their truest testimony will not be in thewords we speak, but in the way they led their lives and in the way they lost those lives – with dedication, honor and anunquenchable desire to explore this mysterious and beautiful universe.

The best we can do is remember our seven astronauts – our ChallengerSeven – remember them as they lived, bringing life and loveand joy to those who knew them and pride to a nation.

They came from all parts of this great country – from South Carolina to Washington State; Ohio to Mohawk, New York; Hawaii toNorth Carolina to Concord, New Hampshire. They were so different, yet in their mission, their quest, they held so much in common.

(Video) President Ronald Reagan’s Speech on Space Shuttle Challenger

We remember Dick Scobee, the commander who spoke the last words we heard from the space shuttle Challenger. He served as a fighterpilot in Vietnam, earning many medals for bravery, and later as a test pilot of advanced aircraft before joining the space program.Danger was a familiar companion to Commander Scobee.

We remember Michael Smith, who earned enough medals as a combat pilot to cover his chest, including the Navy Distinguished FlyingCross, three Air Medals – and the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry with Silver Star, in gratitude from a nation that he fought tokeep free.

We remember Judith Resnik, known as J.R. to her friends, always smiling, always eager to make a contribution, finding beauty in themusic she played on her piano in her off-hours.

We remember Ellison Onizuka, who, as a child running barefoot through the coffee fields and macadamia groves of Hawaii, dreamed ofsomeday traveling to the Moon. Being an Eagle Scout, he said, had helped him soar to the impressive achievement of his career.

We remember Ronald McNair, who said that he learned perseverance in the cotton fields of South Carolina. His dream was to liveaboard the space station, performing experiments and playing his saxophone in the weightlessness of space; Ron, we will miss yoursaxophone and we will build your space station.

We remember Gregory Jarvis. On that ill-fated flight he was carrying with him a flag of his university in Buffalo, New York – asmall token he said, to the people who unlocked his future.

We remember Christa McAuliffe, who captured the imagination of the entire nation, inspiring us with her pluck, her restless spiritof discovery; a teacher, not just to her students, but to an entire people, instilling us all with the excitement of this journey weride into the future.

(Video) Challenger shuttle disaster - RAW UNCUT footage

We will always remember them, these skilled professionals, scientists and adventurers, these artists and teachers and family men andwomen, and we will cherish each of their stories – stories of triumph and bravery, stories of true American heroes.

On the day of the disaster, our nation held a vigil by our television sets. In one cruel moment, our exhilaration turned to horror;we waited and watched and tried to make sense of what we had seen. That night, I listened to a call-in program on the radio: peopleof every age spoke of their sadness and the pride they felt in `our astronauts.’ Across America, we are reaching out, holding hands,finding comfort in one another.

The sacrifice of your loved ones has stirred the soul of our nation and, through the pain, our hearts have been opened to a profoundtruth – the future is not free, the story of all human progress is one of a struggle against all odds. We learned again that thisAmerica, which Abraham Lincoln called the last best hope of man on Earth, was built on heroism and noble sacrifice. It was built bymen and women like our seven star voyagers, who answered a call beyond duty, who gave more than was expected or required, and whogave it with little thought to worldly reward.

We think back to the pioneers of an earlier century, and the sturdy souls who took their families and the belongings and set outinto the frontier of the American West. Often, they met with terrible hardship. Along the Oregon Trail you can still see the gravemarkers of those who fell on the way. But grief only steeled them to the journey ahead.

Today, the frontier is space and the boundaries of human knowledge. Sometimes, when we reach for the stars, we fall short. But wemust pick ourselves up again and press on despite the pain. Our nation is indeed fortunate that we can still draw on immensereservoirs of courage, character and fortitude – that we are still blessed with heroes like those of the space shuttleChallenger.

Dick Scobee knew that every launching of a space shuttle is a technological miracle. And he said, if something ever does go wrong, Ihope that doesn’t mean the end to the space shuttle program. Every family member I talked to asked specifically that we continue theprogram, that that is what their departed loved one would want above all else. We will not disappoint them.

Today, we promise Dick Scobee and his crew that their dream lives on; that the future they worked so hard to build will becomereality. The dedicated men and women of NASA have lost seven members of their family. Still, they too, must forge ahead, with aspace program that is effective, safe and efficient, but bold and committed.

(Video) President Ronald Reagan addresses nation after the space shuttle Challenger expodes

Man will continue his conquest of space. To reach out for new goals and ever greater achievements – that is the way we shallcommemorate our seven Challenger heroes.

Dick, Mike, Judy, El, Ron, Greg and Christa – your families and your country mourn your passing. We bid you goodbye. We will neverforget you. For those who knew you well and loved you, the pain will be deep and enduring. A nation, too, will long feel the loss ofher seven sons and daughters, her seven good friends. We can find consolation only in faith, for we know in our hearts that you whoflew so high and so proud now make your home beyond the stars, safe in God’s promise of eternal life.

May God bless you all and give you comfort in this difficult time.

(Video) Challenger: President Reagan's Challenger Disaster Speech - 1/28/86


What was the Challenger disaster speech? ›

The crew of the space shuttle Challenger honored us by the manner in which they lived their lives. We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for their journey and waved goodbye and “slipped the surly bonds of earth” to “touch the face of God.”Thank you.

What was the purpose of the Challenger speech? ›

The main goal of the address was to help America begin to recover from the loss of the men and women on the shuttle and the loss of the challenger, to eulogize the seven men and women killed in the crash, and to keep the hope up in the American people.

Who wrote the Challenger disaster speech? ›

All seven astronauts aboard were killed. On the night of the disaster, Reagan delivered a speech, written by Peggy Noonan, in which he said: The future doesn't belong to the fainthearted; it belongs to the brave...

What is one central idea from Reagan's speech about the Challenger disaster? ›

The main objective of Reagan's speech was aimed to offer condolences to those both personally affected by the accident and those who had witnessed it, and to advocate future space quest.

What did the Challenger disaster teach us? ›

The Challenger accident taught us tough lessons and brought forward what have become recognizable phrases: normalization of deviance, organizational silence and silent safety program. Sadly, we learned these lessons again in 2003 with the loss of Columbia and her crew.

What poem did Reagan read after the Challenger disaster? ›

High Flight is a 1941 sonnet written by war poet John Gillespie Magee Jr. and inspired by his experiences as a fighter pilot of the Royal Canadian Air Force in World War II. Magee began writing the poem on 18 August, while stationed at No.

What is the motto of the Challenger mission? ›

Challenger Motto - "We Touch the Future, We Teach"

Challenger's motto is a modified version of the first teacher in space, Christa McAuliffe's, famous quote "I touch the future, I teach."

Who is the audience in the Challenger speech? ›

Reagan's audience consisted of people of all ages and different races, but some points in his speech were directly addressed to the families of the crew members. In this speech, Reagan acknowledges the heroism of the crew while mourning with their families.

What words were repeated or emphasized in the Challenger speech? ›

In his speech in the aftermath of the Challenger explosion, Pres. Reagan used alliteration to convey his feelings of sadness to the families of the seven astronauts lost. He repeats the words special, spirit, and says to show as to what high regards he held the astronauts.

Who took the blame for Challenger? ›

For more than 30 years, Bob Ebeling carried the guilt of the Challenger explosion. He was an engineer and he knew the shuttle couldn't sustain the freezing temperatures. He warned his supervisors.

Who was the whistleblower in the Challenger disaster? ›

The tenth anniversary of the Challenger disaster in January of 1996 brought renewed attention to Roger Boisjoly, the engineer who is perhaps the most widely known whistleblower.

Who was sued for the Challenger disaster? ›

He offered to settle separately with the government for whatever it calculated its share was, and he would take on Thiokol independently. But the government refused. She sued Thiokol, the government and Lawrence Mulloy, the NASA engineer responsible for the booster rocket that was blamed for the accident.

What is the central idea from Reagan's speech? ›

His speech points out that the government was part of the problem in that present economic distress, not just the nation alone. By defining and keeping in check the power and influence of the government, Americans could work together to recover and build a better future.

What was the conclusion for Challenger disaster? ›

The commission found that the immediate cause of the Challenger accident was a failure in the O-rings sealing the aft field joint on the right solid rocket booster, causing pressurized hot gases and eventually flame to "blow by" the O-ring and contact the adjacent external tank, causing structural failure.

Which statement best describes Reagan's main message? ›

Which statement best describes Reagan's main message for his audience in this excerpt? Democracy leads to greater prosperity than communism does. Read the passage from chapter 17 of The Prince.

What changed after the Challenger disaster? ›

Satellite launches were shifted from the shuttle to reusable rockets. Additionally, astronauts were pulled off duties such as repairing satellites, and the Manned Maneuvering Unit was not flown again, to better preserve astronaut safety.

What are the ethical lessons from the Challenger explosion? ›

The key ethical issues evident in the case were the lack of communication between managers and poor safety culture, which prevented adequate technology testing before the launch. The primary ethical issue, in this case, was the lack of a proper safety culture.

What could have been done to prevent the Challenger disaster? ›

Many months of investigation later, though, it became clear that one phone call could have prevented the accident. It could have been placed that morning to either Jesse Moore, NASA's Associate Administrator for Space Flight, or Gene Thomas, the Launch Director.

Who wrote Ronald Reagan's inaugural speech? ›

In 1981, Khachigian was named chief speechwriter and special consultant to the President. Within the first 100 days, Khachigian wrote Reagan's inaugural address, his three main economic speeches, and the welcome home to the Iranian hostages.

Where was Reagan's speech? ›

The Berlin Wall Speech was delivered by United States President Ronald Reagan in West Berlin on June 12, 1987. The speech is commonly known by a key line from the middle part: "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!".

What is an example of logos in Reagan's Challenger speech? ›

An example of when President Reagan uses logos in his speech is when he says “We 've grown used to the idea of space, and, perhaps we forget that we 've only just begun. We 're still pioneers.

Why did they call it the Challenger? ›

Space Shuttle orbiter Challenger was named after the British Naval research vessel HMS Challenger that sailed the Atlantic and Pacific oceans during the 1870s. The Apollo 17 lunar module also carried the name of Challenger.

How much did the Challenger disaster cost? ›

These costs are esti- mated to be $277 million in 1986 and $300 million in 1987.

Who was the teacher on the Challenger? ›

Burgess, Colin; Corrigan, Grace George (2000). Teacher in space: Christa McAuliffe and the Challenger legacy. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press. ISBN 0-8032-6182-9 . .

What character was invited on the Challenger? ›

A beloved character from Sesame Street may seem like an unlikely passenger on a space bound mission, but the puppeteer inside the yellow feathered suit, Caroll Spinney, had actually been invited to join the Challenger mission.

What figurative language did Ronald Reagan use in the Challenger speech? ›


Reagan's claim is that we will remember the members of the Challenger crew and continue to honor them in the years to come. An example of figurative language that Reagan uses is "(The lost astronauts) slipped the surly bonds of the Earth to touch the face of God."

What figure of speech repeats the first word? ›

Anaphora: The repetition of a word or sequence of words at the beginning of successive clauses, phrases, or sentences is anaphora. It is a rhetorical device orators and writers use to create a rhythm or add emphasis.

What is the alliteration in the Challenger disaster speech? ›

-Alliteration : He used alliteration to console the nation by recognizing the hearts, passion, and spirits of all seven astronauts. Ex: "They had that special grace, that special spirit that says, "Give me a challenge and I'll meet it with joy."

Did Columbia crew know what was happening? ›

While no one knew for sure what caused Columbia's accident, there were engineers at the Johnson Space Center who were pretty sure they knew what happened, who had tried to alert senior management, and who were ignored.

Who said take off your engineering hat and put on your management hat? ›

When NASA overruled the Thiokol engineers, it was with a quote that no one who works with data, on the front lines of a project, should ever forget: "Take off your engineer hat," they told Boisjoly and the others, "and put your management hat on".

How many space shuttles were lost? ›

Four fully operational orbiters were initially built: Columbia, Challenger, Discovery, and Atlantis. Of these, two were lost in mission accidents: Challenger in 1986 and Columbia in 2003, with a total of 14 astronauts killed.

Did the Challenger crew families sue? ›

McNair, a NASA employee, the father of Jarvis and the mother of mission specialist Judith A. Resnik to file separate suits against Morton Thiokol only. Their suits were settled out of court, and Krist said he was under court order not to discuss the amount paid.

Who was the black guy on Challenger? ›

Physicist Ronald Erwin McNair was America's second black astronaut and one of seven crew members killed in the space shuttle Challenger explosion January 28, 1986.

How much compensation did Challenger crew get? ›

In March 1988 the federal government and Morton Thiokol Inc. agreed to pay $7.7 million in cash and annuities to the families of four of the seven Challenger astronauts as part of a settlement aimed at avoiding lawsuits in the nation's worst space disaster, according to government documents.

Did Challenger crew families get paid? ›

The federal government and Morton Thiokol Inc. agreed to pay $7.7 million in cash and annuities to the families of four of the seven Challenger astronauts as part of a settlement aimed at avoiding lawsuits in the nation's worst space disaster, according to government documents released yesterday.

How did NASA fix the O ring problem? ›

During the Challenger liftoff, one of the main O-rings between sections of the rocket failed, allowing hot gas to escape and cause an explosion in which the crew perished. After the disaster, the joints were redesigned with an extra piece of metal inside to hold the sections together.

Who were the Challenger teacher finalists? ›

Pam Grayson Baugh, then a teacher at Minor High School in Adamsville, and Sophia Ann Clifford, from Erwin High School in Birmingham, were Alabama's finalists. They, along with more than 100 other national finalists out of the 11,000 who had competed, were nearly in the seat where McAuliffe sat that icy morning.

What was the main point of the speech? ›

The main points of any speech are the key pieces of information or arguments contained within the talk or presentation. In other words, the main points are what you want your audience to remember.

What is the core message of the speech? ›

A core message is a simple sentence that clearly summarizes the essence of your presentation. It provides the focus for your content and directs the development of your content. Your core message enables your audience to “get it,” to remember the specific purpose of the presentation, and to take needed action.

What made the space shuttle Challenger disaster speech so effective? ›

It's a speech about death, and Reagan is responding to the heightened emotions of a country in crisis. There is no way around acknowledging seven people lost their lives, so Reagan discusses it frankly and calmly. That's a powerful statement to make about someone whom you've never met, but that's beside the point.

What did engineers learn from the Challenger disaster? ›

In any system, the more complex the behavior, the harder it becomes to separate true signals of danger from the noise. That is the core lesson from the Challenger disaster – and that is the lesson that can contribute to improved safety and reliability across multiple industries.

What were Reagan's goals? ›

Reduce marginal tax rates on income from labor and capital. Reduce regulation. Tighten the money supply to reduce inflation. Reduce the growth of government spending.

What are Ronald Reagan's values? ›

Reagan believed in policies based on supply-side economics and advocated a laissez-faire philosophy, seeking to stimulate the economy with large, across-the-board tax cuts. Reagan pointed to improvements in certain key economic indicators as evidence of success.

How does Reagan believe that America can achieve peace? ›

"Peace through strength" is a phrase that suggests that military power can help preserve peace. It has been used by many leaders from Roman Emperor Hadrian in the second century AD to former US President Ronald Reagan in the 1980s. The concept has long been associated with realpolitik.

What was the rhetorical analysis of the Challenger disaster speech? ›

In this speech, he used rhetorical devices, such as alliteration, allusion, anaphora, and euphemism to relay his feelings of sadness and grief. In his speech in the aftermath of the Challenger explosion, Pres. Reagan used alliteration to convey his feelings of sadness to the families of the seven astronauts lost.

How did the Russians respond to the Challenger disaster? ›

'We partake of your grief at the tragic death of the crew of the space shuttle Challenger,' Mr Gorbachev said in his telegram to President Reagan. The Soviet leader went on to offer his personal condolences to the people of the US, and to the families of the bereaved.

What are 3 rhetorical devices in I Have a Dream speech? ›

In “I Have a Dream”, Martin Luther King Jr. extensively uses repetitions, metaphors, and allusions. Other rhetorical devices that you should note are antithesis, direct address, and enumeration.

What is the rhetorical situation of a speech? ›

A rhetorical situation is any circumstance in which one or more people employ rhetoric, finding all the available means of persuasion. Speakers and writers who use rhetoric are called rhetors. All rhetorical situations originate with an exigence. The exigence is what motivates a rhetor to argue in the first place.

What rhetorical device did Barack Obama use in his speech? ›

In his campaign rhetoric, Obama used three main devices: motifs, American exceptionalism, and voicing.

Who was the audience of the Challenger speech? ›

The speech is titled, “Explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger, Address to the Union, January 28, 1986” and is given by President Ronald Reagan from his desk in the Oval Office. The intended audience of the speech given by President Reagan is all of the American People.

What were the quotes from the Challenger explosion? ›

We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for their journey and waved goodbye and 'slipped the surly bonds of earth' to 'touch the face of God. '”

Did Russians ever fly on the space shuttle? ›

Buran (Russian for snowstorm) made only one spaceflight. It orbited Earth on November 15, 1988, completing an uncrewed, 3 1/2-hour flight. The successful launch wasn't much to show for many years of effort, but it's not the whole Buran story.

What was one of the reasons behind the Challenger explosion quizlet? ›

The disintegration of the vehicle began after a joint in its right solid rocket booster (SRB) failed at liftoff. The failure was caused by the failure of O-ring seals used in the joint that were not designed to handle the unusually cold conditions that existed at this launch.

What is the space shuttle summary? ›

space shuttle, formally Space Transportation System (STS), Partially reusable rocket-launched vehicle developed by NASA to go into Earth orbit, transport people and cargo between Earth and orbiting spacecraft, and glide to a runway landing on Earth.

What was the Challenger disaster quizlet? ›

1986: The space shuttle Challenger exploded 73 seconds into flight, killing all aboard. The explosion was caused by a faulty seal in the fuel tank. The shuttle program was halted while investigators and officials drew up new safety regulations, but was resumed in 1988 with the flight of the Discovery.


1. Communication Professor's Reaction to Ronald Reagan's Challenger Shuttle Speech
(Communication Coach Alexander Lyon)
2. Space Shuttle Challenger explosion (1986)
3. President Ronald Reagan - Address on the Challenger Disaster
4. President's address to the nation on the Columbia shuttle disaster
(AP Archive)
5. Challenger Disaster: Reagan's TV Address
6. The Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster Explained
(Mr. Beat)


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