On January 28, 1986, the space shuttle Challenger launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Seventy-three seconds after launch, the fiery breach of a solid motor joint caused a rupture of the propellant tanks, and a stunned nation watched as flames engulfed the craft, killing all seven crew members on board. It was Hugh Harris, “the voice of launch control,” whom audiences across the country heard counting down to lift-off on that fateful day.
With over fifty years of experience with NASA’s missions, Harris presents the story of the Challenger tragedy as only an insider can. With by-the-second accounts of the spacecraft’s launch and a comprehensive overview of the ensuing investigation, Harris gives readers a behind-the-scenes look at the devastating accident that grounded the shuttle fleet for over two years. This book tells the whole story of the Challenger’s tragic legacy.
“This book has all the facts, but more importantly, offers insight into the people. The people are what the space program is all about.” —From the introduction by Robert L. Crippen, pilot of the first space shuttle mission
“Finally, the accurate story has been written by one from Challenger’s Launch Control. Hugh Harris’ Challenger: An American Tragedy is a masterpiece.” —Jay Barbree, author of Moon Shot: The Inside Story of America’s Race to the Moon
“Harris offers a personal—and sometimes painful—look back at one of the darkest chapters in U.S. human spaceflight, as well as its impact on NASA over time.” —Space.com
“More than just a personal account of the disaster, Harris punctuates his book with conversations and interactions between himself and some of [NASA’s] key players, bringing the story to life. Throughout, Harris’ love for NASA and the shuttle program is obvious.” —Discovery.com
Called “the Voice of NASA” for many years by the world’s television networks, Hugh Harris devoted thirty-five years with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration to telling the story of the United States space program. Although he is best known to the public for his calm, professional commentary on the progress of launch preparations and launch of the space shuttle, his primary accomplishments were in directing an outreach program to the general public, news media, students, and educators, as well as to business and government leaders. He also oversaw the largest major expansion (up to that time) in the history of the Kennedy Space Center’s visitor complex and tours.
Harris began his career as a member of the news media. He worked as a reporter and broadcaster for WMTR in Morristown, New Jersey, and as a reporter and photographer for two newspapers.
After his retirement in 1998, he shared his experience in NASA public relations with nuclear industry leaders at conferences held by the United Nations’ International Atomic Energy Agency in Europe and Japan and in this country through the Nuclear Energy Institute.
He continues to work as a volunteer at the KSC Press Site, as well as for the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation.