Dan Rather anchors this special report on the explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger and the deaths of its seven crew members, including school teacher Christa McAuliffe, who was to be the first private citizen in space. Rather reviews footage of the shuttle's launch and subsequent destruction, including shots of viewers' reactions to the explosion, and then presents segments of President Ronald Reagan's televised eulogy that evening. Next, Rather presides over the following segments: a discussion with Leo Krupp, a former Rockwell Research pilot, about the structure of the shuttle and possible reasons for its sudden explosion a little over two minutes after its launch; an interview with former astronaut Alan Bean about the shuttle crew's activities in the first few minutes after a launch; Bruce Hall's piece looks at the lives and accomplishments of Challenger passenger McAuliffe, Commander Francis R. (Dick) Scobee, pilot Michael J. Smith, mission specialist Judith A. Resnick, mission specialist Ronald E. McNair, mission specialist Ellison S. Onizuka, and payload specialist Greg Jarvis; Rather talks to former astronaut Sen. Jake Garn (R-UT) about the visits he, Sen. John Glenn (D-OH), and President Reagan paid to crew members' families; Martha Teichner reports from Clear Lake, Texas on reactions of residents and Johnson Space Center employees to the loss of the shuttle; Bernard Goldberg presents reactions from Hugh Harris at NASA Mission Control, Speaker of the House and Rep. Tip O'Neill (D-MA), and Mayor of Titusville, Florida, Truman Scarborough; Leslie Stahl reports on President Reagan's address to the nation, his declaration of a national week of mourning, and his administration's involvement with the space program; Rather presents a piece on other disasters in the histories of the U.S. and Soviet space programs and talks to Soviet space program expert Nicholas Johnson about the Challenger explosion's effect on the "space race"; military correspondent David Martin discusses the disaster's effect on the military's space program; Rather talks to Bean, chairman of the Science and Technology Caucus Rep. Mervyn Dymally (D-CA), and former director of the shuttle program Myron Malkin about the direction of the U.S. space program in its 25th year of manned exploration of space; Sandy Gillmore visits with McNair's former teacher Matthew Brown and former classmate George Simmons, who discuss McNair's legacy; Charles Osgood reports from Concorde, New Hampshire on memorials in McAuliffe's hometown; and Walter Cronkite offers commentary on the disaster. The program ends with 1984 footage of Scobee talking about the promise of space exploration outweighing its risks.

Cataloging of this program has been made possible by The Blanche and Irving Laurie Foundation.


  • DATE: January 28, 1986 Tuesday
  • RUNNING TIME: 0:57:53
  • COLOR/B&W: Color
  • CATALOG ID: T86:1852
  • GENRE: News
  • SUBJECT HEADING: Disaster reporting - 1986
  • SERIES RUN: CBS - TV, 1986


  • Dan Rather … Anchor
  • Walter Cronkite … Reporter
  • Sandy Gillmore … Reporter
  • Bernard Goldberg … Reporter
  • Bruce Hall … Reporter
  • David Martin … Reporter
  • Charles Osgood … Reporter
  • Lesley Stahl … Reporter
  • Martha Teichner … Reporter
  • Alan Bean
  • Matthew Brown
  • Mervyn Dymally
  • Jake Garn
  • John Glenn
  • Hugh Harris
  • Gregory B. Jarvis
  • Nicholas Johnson
  • Leo Krupp
  • Myron Malkin
  • Christa McAuliffe
  • Ronald E. McNair
  • O'Neill, Thomas P. "Tip"
  • Ellison S. Onizuka
  • Ronald Reagan
  • Judith A. Resnick
  • Truman Scarborough
  • Francis R. Scobee
  • George Simmons
  • Michael J. Smith