Aviation News

January 31, 2010

Dying Man Shares Previously Unseen Amateur Video of Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster

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Written by: NYCAviation Staff
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Video cameras were not the ubiquitous devices in 1986 that they are today, so the only video footage of the Space Shuttle Challenger most of us have seen are the live network broadcasts captured by the lenses of CBS and CNN.

Optometrist Dr. Jack Moss, however, was playing with his new Betamax camcorder that chilly January morning, and recorded the sad event from his front yard in Winter Haven, Florida, about 70 miles southwest of Cape Canaveral.

Moss had never shared the tape with the media or NASA, but a week before he died this past December, he fished it out of his attic and handed it over to the Space Exploration Archive, a non-profit organization in Louisville, Kentucky. The Archive transferred the video to digital formats and released it to the public domain in time for the 24th anniversary of the disaster this past week.

“That’s trouble of some kind, George,” says Moss, as the shuttle’s single smoke plume suddenly expands and then splits into a Y-shape. As Moss and other onlookers spend several moments contemplating if something had gone wrong, a neighbor checks the news inside his house, only to return and confirm “It exploded!”

(via Louiville Courier Journal)



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  • wow amazing video.

  • wow amazing video.

  • Nice post!

  • Nice post!

  • Gut wrenching.

  • Gut wrenching.

  • Rob

    That trouble or not…They're not having trouble are they..That's trouble some kind George…That's trouble some kind or not….Hey they….They got trouble…That's trouble some kind George…That's trouble some kind…That didn't look right

    • Morton Thiokol

      I was listening to an AM radio news station at the moment of the disaster, which broke in with a feed from ABC radio a few seconds after the main fuel tank exploded. A few minutes earlier at the time of the 11:30 news segment it had been announced that they were "minutes away from blastoff" in Florida, so when they broke in with an announcer from Florida I assumed it would be a routine description, but it was anything but that. This tragedy could have been prevented had the executives not overruled engineers that very morning who voted "no go" on the launch due to the cold weather and previous problems with the O-rings.

    • george

      your point?

    • shaydothan

      lool haha well done lenny lol

  • Rob

    That trouble or not…They're not having trouble are they..That's trouble some kind George…That's trouble some kind or not….Hey they….They got trouble…That's trouble some kind George…That's trouble some kind…That didn't look right

    • Morton Thiokol

      I was listening to an AM radio news station at the moment of the disaster, which broke in with a feed from ABC radio a few seconds after the main fuel tank exploded. A few minutes earlier at the time of the 11:30 news segment it had been announced that they were "minutes away from blastoff" in Florida, so when they broke in with an announcer from Florida I assumed it would be a routine description, but it was anything but that. This tragedy could have been prevented had the executives not overruled engineers that very morning who voted "no go" on the launch due to the cold weather and previous problems with the O-rings.

    • george

      your point?

    • shaydothan

      lool haha well done lenny lol

  • John

    And the sad thing is the engineers who voted for "No go" were all fired, whereas the executives were later quietly let back into their respective companies as if nothing had ever happened.

    • WayneMcKz

      They were not fired! The environment at Morton Thiokol was toxic for them, however.

  • John

    And the sad thing is the engineers who voted for "No go" were all fired, whereas the executives were later quietly let back into their respective companies as if nothing had ever happened.

    • WayneMcKz

      They were not fired! The environment at Morton Thiokol was toxic for them, however.

  • Michael

    I was carpooling with some school friends that morning. We stopped to pick up a friend, the only guy I knew who had a satellite dish. He was late as usual, so we watched Challenger's ascent on his TV, but it was a feed off a channel that had no reporter commentary. As it unfolded, we were wondering if the plume seemed unusual, so we scrambled to find a regular newscast, difficult because we had no idea where the "regular channels" were. Eventually, we scanned to a regular broadcast channel and our worst fears were confirmed, over and over of course. The intensely sad mood of just about everyone I knew lingered for many months thereafter. Thanks to Dr. Moss for such an interesting document of that historical moment. Yes, truly amazing.

  • Michael

    I was carpooling with some school friends that morning. We stopped to pick up a friend, the only guy I knew who had a satellite dish. He was late as usual, so we watched Challenger's ascent on his TV, but it was a feed off a channel that had no reporter commentary. As it unfolded, we were wondering if the plume seemed unusual, so we scrambled to find a regular newscast, difficult because we had no idea where the "regular channels" were. Eventually, we scanned to a regular broadcast channel and our worst fears were confirmed, over and over of course. The intensely sad mood of just about everyone I knew lingered for many months thereafter. Thanks to Dr. Moss for such an interesting document of that historical moment. Yes, truly amazing.

  • Ben

    I like how even with the video right there, and the fact that the camera operator said approximately the same thing 20 different ways, the author of this article -still- managed to misquote him.

  • Ben

    I like how even with the video right there, and the fact that the camera operator said approximately the same thing 20 different ways, the author of this article -still- managed to misquote him.

  • Volter

    This video is hosted terribly. I waited for the whole thing to buffer, and it still stops while playing to buffer the video. Anyone know of a download link? I would love to see the whole video without it constantly stopping.

    • Rich

      It's being slashdotted — wait a day.

    • If you're using Firefox, install Download Helper, then you can DL the file as an .flv and then change that to whatever file format you want later.

  • Volter

    This video is hosted terribly. I waited for the whole thing to buffer, and it still stops while playing to buffer the video. Anyone know of a download link? I would love to see the whole video without it constantly stopping.

    • Rich

      It's being slashdotted — wait a day.

    • If you're using Firefox, install Download Helper, then you can DL the file as an .flv and then change that to whatever file format you want later.

  • Ed P.

    I was at the Naval Nuclear school in Orlando, and we were changing classrooms that day. I was holding a stack of books and turned to watch it got up and saw that exact image, maybe a little smaller. When I got done I went to eat at the mess hall and it was all over the TVs there.

  • Ed P.

    I was at the Naval Nuclear school in Orlando, and we were changing classrooms that day. I was holding a stack of books and turned to watch it got up and saw that exact image, maybe a little smaller. When I got done I went to eat at the mess hall and it was all over the TVs there.

  • Jake646

    I remember the DJ of the radio station I was listening to broke in and said that the Space Shuttle Voyager had exploded and I was thinking "I hope he means the space probe Voyager not the shuttle." When I arrived at a friends house a few minutes later I learned the unfortunate truth.

  • Jake646

    I remember the DJ of the radio station I was listening to broke in and said that the Space Shuttle Voyager had exploded and I was thinking "I hope he means the space probe Voyager not the shuttle." When I arrived at a friends house a few minutes later I learned the unfortunate truth.

  • Uhm, why did he wait TWENTY FOUR YEARS to release this!??

    • Anonmymous

      He probably didn't think about how significant it was until he was going through his possessions to figure out who his things would go to when he died.

  • Uhm, why did he wait TWENTY FOUR YEARS to release this!??

    • Anonmymous

      He probably didn't think about how significant it was until he was going through his possessions to figure out who his things would go to when he died.

  • anon

    i suggest listening to it muted. the audio detracts from the experience.

    • Rich

      Disagree completely. The experience is not seeing a lit candle go out, but to see how those who were there at the time were affected by it. We the audience know what to expect and wait for it to happen, but you can lose yourself in the moment, hearing moss come to the realization and surprise that something horrible happened.

    • Steve

      On the contrary, it is his commentary that, mundane as it is, makes for such an interesting and important piece of footage. It just goes to show that even by 1986 people took space exploration for granted, and it was Moss' way of epxressing his surprise.

  • anon

    i suggest listening to it muted. the audio detracts from the experience.

    • Rich

      Disagree completely. The experience is not seeing a lit candle go out, but to see how those who were there at the time were affected by it. We the audience know what to expect and wait for it to happen, but you can lose yourself in the moment, hearing moss come to the realization and surprise that something horrible happened.

    • Steve

      On the contrary, it is his commentary that, mundane as it is, makes for such an interesting and important piece of footage. It just goes to show that even by 1986 people took space exploration for granted, and it was Moss' way of epxressing his surprise.

  • guest

    I remember when right out of high school I was working in an RV shop, in a city in northern Utah which was in close proximity to where Morton Thiokol built the shuttle boosters in the 80's. This was a few years after the Challenger explosion. As the kid on the crew I got all of the grunt work including the day that some guy who was some sort of executive at Thiokol brought in his very high end top of the line RV (bus) in for repairs.
    One day he came in to check on the progress of his unit, while I was under the unit working on some undesirable problem that the new guy always gets, and he and the boss were joking around about how after "he blew up the shuttle" he still managed to land on his feet by allowing himself to be "fired" yet getting brought right back in, under the radar, as "consultant" at the same pay.
    Yeah they had a great laugh and I was so disgusted that I almost threw up. This was over 20 years ago, yet I still remember the disgust as if it were yesterday.

  • guest

    I remember when right out of high school I was working in an RV shop, in a city in northern Utah which was in close proximity to where Morton Thiokol built the shuttle boosters in the 80's. This was a few years after the Challenger explosion. As the kid on the crew I got all of the grunt work including the day that some guy who was some sort of executive at Thiokol brought in his very high end top of the line RV (bus) in for repairs.
    One day he came in to check on the progress of his unit, while I was under the unit working on some undesirable problem that the new guy always gets, and he and the boss were joking around about how after "he blew up the shuttle" he still managed to land on his feet by allowing himself to be "fired" yet getting brought right back in, under the radar, as "consultant" at the same pay.
    Yeah they had a great laugh and I was so disgusted that I almost threw up. This was over 20 years ago, yet I still remember the disgust as if it were yesterday.

  • LC808

    I was in elementary school in Hawaii at time…our teacher let us watch most shuttle launches, but the whole school paused to watch this in our classrooms as we were very proud of Ellison Onizuka who was from Hawaii. This tragedy still saddens me to this day…Though the new camera angle is interesting.

  • LC808

    I was in elementary school in Hawaii at time…our teacher let us watch most shuttle launches, but the whole school paused to watch this in our classrooms as we were very proud of Ellison Onizuka who was from Hawaii. This tragedy still saddens me to this day…Though the new camera angle is interesting.

  • Lonny Eachus

    And even though specifically ordered to by the President at the time, 23+ years later, NASA still hasn't solved its bureaucratic SNAFUs, requiring yet another President to step in and try to make silk purses.

  • Lonny Eachus

    And even though specifically ordered to by the President at the time, 23+ years later, NASA still hasn't solved its bureaucratic SNAFUs, requiring yet another President to step in and try to make silk purses.

  • Anonmymous

    Thanks to Mr. Moss for the footage, a historical moment indeed!

  • Anonmymous

    Thanks to Mr. Moss for the footage, a historical moment indeed!

  • Banaczech

    My family and I took a trip from Edmonton Alberta, Canada to Florida for that launch only to see it turn horrible. One of the worst memories from my childhood. It's sad to see again, but wonderful that Mr Moss though of it before it was lost forever.

  • Banaczech

    My family and I took a trip from Edmonton Alberta, Canada to Florida for that launch only to see it turn horrible. One of the worst memories from my childhood. It's sad to see again, but wonderful that Mr Moss though of it before it was lost forever.

  • Deb

    This day will never leave me. I was standing in a hospital as my six year niece lay there dying from encephalitis. I looked up at the Television dazed and confused as I noticed all the doctors and nurses were shocked with disbelief. My family to this day never realized what happened that moment when so many precious lives where taken. We only could think of our little Stella<3

  • Deb

    This day will never leave me. I was standing in a hospital as my six year niece lay there dying from encephalitis. I looked up at the Television dazed and confused as I noticed all the doctors and nurses were shocked with disbelief. My family to this day never realized what happened that moment when so many precious lives where taken. We only could think of our little Stella<3

  • sad

  • sad

  • Jahm Mitt

    Yeah well it is sad, but shit happens.

    No one lives forever.

    I'd rather die doing it than sitting around wishing I had.

  • Jahm Mitt

    Yeah well it is sad, but shit happens.

    No one lives forever.

    I'd rather die doing it than sitting around wishing I had.

  • steve

    Seems like so long ago… We were at the local mall with my older brother. I think it was a snow day because we were not in school, but we should had been. I was in young astranauts club, etc so I wanted to see the launch and I remembering running down to the TV store and watching it on a big 32 inch console unit. I was so excited, we had Christa McAuliffe come to the school previously and talk about the mission. it was a big deal… and I remember seeing the rockets go off in different directions and realize that it didn't look right. I had been listening to the broadcasted dialong and remeber the "Go at throttle up" but didn't know why it split. Seconds later the nasa broadcaster said "Obviously a major malfunction." I think it was at that point I realized what happened and just became numb. Rest of day is blurred, but that momment will always be burned in and remembered.

  • steve

    Seems like so long ago… We were at the local mall with my older brother. I think it was a snow day because we were not in school, but we should had been. I was in young astranauts club, etc so I wanted to see the launch and I remembering running down to the TV store and watching it on a big 32 inch console unit. I was so excited, we had Christa McAuliffe come to the school previously and talk about the mission. it was a big deal… and I remember seeing the rockets go off in different directions and realize that it didn't look right. I had been listening to the broadcasted dialong and remeber the "Go at throttle up" but didn't know why it split. Seconds later the nasa broadcaster said "Obviously a major malfunction." I think it was at that point I realized what happened and just became numb. Rest of day is blurred, but that momment will always be burned in and remembered.

  • Joel

    Oops meant to say costume not customer, sorry.

  • Joel

    Oops meant to say costume not customer, sorry.

  • Youtubers will envy this, because Youtube was not invented in that time yet.

  • Youtubers will envy this, because Youtube was not invented in that time yet.

  • Joel

    My son was going to be in play about astronauts in kindergarten when this happen. He had a customer and they built a cardboard spaceship.

  • Joel

    My son was going to be in play about astronauts in kindergarten when this happen. He had a customer and they built a cardboard spaceship.

  • Gobo

    I watched here on Youtube because it would not load up for me here- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=41jq_5ltkno

  • Gobo

    I watched here on Youtube because it would not load up for me here- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=41jq_5ltkno

  • Jon z

    quoting the article: “That looks like trouble,” says Moss, as the shuttle’s single smoke plume suddenly expands and then splits into a Y-shape.

    He didn't say that, it's just a small quibble… but why would you change this man's authentic and unique dialect for your news article?

  • Jon z

    quoting the article: “That looks like trouble,” says Moss, as the shuttle’s single smoke plume suddenly expands and then splits into a Y-shape.

    He didn't say that, it's just a small quibble… but why would you change this man's authentic and unique dialect for your news article?

  • Amazing video. Very sad though.

  • Amazing video. Very sad though.

  • I would like to thanks a ton for your efforts you earn in composing this blog post. I was hoping the same best job from you later on as perfectly

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    i read your blog you are a perfect blog writer.Please tell me about blog writer in this linkutah web designers 

  • S Freeman

    “I think those poor astronauts have had it”…