• John M. Logsdon
Part of the Palgrave Studies in the History of Science and Technology book series (PSHST)


The loss during launch of space shuttle orbiter Challenger and her seven-person crew on January 28, 1986, was a traumatic shock both to the American public and to the U.S. space program. Reacting to that shock occupied much of the Reagan administration’s space policy attention during the rest of 1986. The Challenger accident also gave Ronald Reagan an unfortunate opportunity to display his best qualities. During the day of the accident and its immediate aftermath, Ronald Reagan was indeed the “great communicator,” voicing the nation’s anguish and providing whatever consolation was possible. His obvious grief and compassion helped the country accept the reality of what had happened without calling for scapegoats or demanding that the human spaceflight program be brought to an end. The White House set up a presidential commission headed by former secretary of state William Rogers to investigate the accident. The Rogers Commission work was concluded by early June. The commission’s report, made public on June 9, concluded that “the cause of the Challenger accident was the failure of the pressure seal in the aft field joint of the right Solid Rocket Motor. The failure was due to a faulty design unacceptably sensitive to a number of factors.”

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© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • John M. Logsdon
    • 1
  1. 1.Space Policy InstituteThe George Washington UniversityWashington, DCUSA

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