The incident that destroyed the now infamous Challenger space shuttle on the morning of January 28, 1986, forever changed the future of NASA's space programs; however, the true extent of the event spanned much further than anyone could have guessed. In the months following, after much of the original Challenger had been recovered and analysis of the crew's remains was completed, Dennis E. Powell of the Miami Herald’s Sunday magazine, Tropic, revealed that NASA had kept much of the story to themselves. They did this not out of respect for families but as a cruel PR move to help preserve their public opinion.
The shocking truth that NASA attempted to hide was that the crew of six astronauts and one schoolteacher aboard the Challenger that day had, in fact, survived the explosion and instead met their ends after they plummeted 12 miles into the ocean. Likely embarrassed by their own lack of foresight when it came to preparing the crew for what may have been a survivable loss of life, NASA withheld information and forced people to lie on their behalf in an effort to keep the general public - which had watched the explosion live on their televisions - in the dark.
The Crew Was Highly Trained And Likely Could Have Survived If Properly Equipped
NASA's attempted coverup of the initial survival of the flight's crew has been linked to embarrassment from their lack of preparation. As Tom Scocca of Gawker put it:
NASA had failed to take any precautions in the event of... [an] accident. It was of a piece with the hubris and magical thinking that had led NASA to put a civilian social-studies teacher aboard a dangerous spacecraft, for a nation of students to watch live in class. There was no equipment to arrest the craft’s fall or to allow the astronauts to ditch it, nor even an emergency locating transmitter. The crew could do nothing but ride it down.
The suggestion that an event such as this could have been avoided with more forethought makes it all the more devastating.
NASA Claims The Crew's Cause Of Death Cannot Be Officially Determined
Despite the substantial evidence that suggests the astronauts survived the initial blast, NASA has taken a steadfast stance, declaring in their official report that "the cause of death of the Challenger astronauts cannot be positively determined.”
NASA Asked Members Of The Recovery Team To Lie For Them
After recovery efforts were underway, one group came across a collection of debris that consisted of the notebooks, supplies, and "an astronaut’s helmet, largely intact, containing ears and scalp" - but NASA convinced the member of the coast guard not to broadcast his findings in his upcoming television interview under the guise that the families hadn't yet been informed.
“I didn’t want them to hear about it on television. So I lied on television. I still feel bad about that,” Coast Guard Lieutenant Commander James Simpson remembered.
The Truth Was Finally Revealed By A Miami Herald Reporter Nearly Two Years Later
After spending two years uncovering evidence about the events the transpired around the Challenger, reporter Dennis E. Powell of the Miami Herald’s Tropic magazine was finally able to publish his findings. However, NASA went to great lengths to conceal this as well, as the reporter's "investigation is nowhere to be found in the Miami Herald’s anniversary coverage, nor does the paper appear to have put a version online at all."