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Challenger: A True Story of Heroism and Disaster on the Edge of Space

The definitive, dramatic, minute-by-minute story of the Challenger disaster based on new archival research and in-depth reporting.

On January 28, 1986, just seventy-three seconds into flight, the space shuttle Challenger broke apart over the Atlantic Ocean, killing all seven people on board. Millions of Americans witnessed the tragic deaths of a crew including New Hampshire schoolteacher Christa McAuliffe. Like 9/11 or JFK’s assassination, the Challenger disaster is a defining moment in 20th-century history—yet the details of what took place that day, and why, have largely been forgotten. Until now.

Based on extensive archival records and meticulous, original reporting, Challenger follows a handful of central protagonists—including each of the seven members of the doomed crew—through the years leading up to the accident, a detailed account of the tragedy itself, and into the investigation that followed. It’s a tale of optimism and promise undermined by political cynicism and cost-cutting in the interests of burnishing national prestige; of hubris and heroism; and of an investigation driven by leakers and whistleblowers determined to bring the truth to light. Throughout, there are the ominous warning signs of a tragedy to come, recognized but then ignored, and ultimately kept from the public.

Higginbotham reveals the history of the shuttle program, the lives of men and women whose stories have been overshadowed by the disaster as well as the designers, engineers, and test pilots who struggled against the odds to get the first shuttle into space.

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