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Space Shuttle Challenger's smoke plume after its in-flight breakup, resulting in its crash and the deaths of all seven crew members.

Photo: NASA

On January 28, 1986, a ruptured O-ring in the right solid rocket booster caused the Space Shuttle Challenger to explode soon after launch. This photograph shows the main engines and solid rocket booster exhaust plumes entwined around a ball of gas from the external tank. Because shuttle launches had become almost routine after fifty successful missions, those watching the shuttle launch in person and on television found the sight of the break up especially shocking and difficult to believe until NASA confirmed the accident.