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Nesbitt's job, as the official public voice of NASA going out to the world during the launch, was to provide a running stream of information. The data came from what today seems like an amazingly primitive source — a single black and white, 9-inch monitor with lines of numbers and cryptic letters scrolling across constantly.
On a piece of paper in front of him Nesbitt also has the mission timeline, a listing of what was supposed to happen second-by-second with the shuttle. "About every 15 seconds there was a new milestone coming in on the timeline," he says.
He and the rest of Mission Control were in a windowless, concrete room that was 1,000 miles west of Cape Canaveral where Challenger was launched.
Nesbitt was focused on the 9-inch computer screen in front of him, reading off numbers. The only actual visual of the launch he could see was a small television off to his left but he couldn't watch it and the computer so he wasn't looking at it.
The launch was proceeding smoothly when Mission Control said "Challenger, go with throttle up," and Challenger answers back, "Roger, go with throttle up."
Breaking back in in a calm voice, Nesbitt read off his screen: "One minute 15 seconds. Velocity 2,900 feet per second. Altitude nine nautical miles. Downrange distance seven nautical miles."
What he couldn't see, but the image that burned into the brains of millions of Americas, was that just as the astronauts on Challenger throttled up, the craft burst into a bright ball of flame. The camera pulls back to show two separate streams of smoke veering first apart and then together, then twisting around in a wild dance.
Sitting next to him was the Navy flight surgeon for the launch, a young captain. "I heard her say 'What was that?' " Nesbitt remembers.
He finished reading the numbers off the screen and then looked over at the TV screen. "At that point there was just the trail of smoke. And I thought 'Oh, crap. There's something not right.' "
There's a 15-second pause between his last words, "seven nautical miles," and the next ones. Neither Nesbitt nor anyone in the room knew what had happened. "I'm not hearing anyone in Mission Control saying 'The spacecraft just disintegrated.' No one's saying anything," he says.
Something was horribly wrong, he knew that. But he had no idea what it was, what had happened to the spacecraft and, most importantly, what had happened to the crew.
What Nesbitt did know was that it was his job to explain to the public what they were seeing on their TV screens. "I had this feeling 'I've got to comment on what's happening,' but I didn't have any information."
So the next words he uttered were the now famous quote: "Flight control is here looking very carefully at the situation, obviously a major malfunction."
Some at the time expressed surprise that his voice never changed during the next hour as the full extent of the tragedy became evident. But that wasn't Nesbitt's job: It was to give accurate information as quickly and smoothly as he could.
Range safety control officers send radio signals that detonate the self-destruct package on right-hand solid rocket.
The left-hand booster self destructs.
T+2 min 25 sec
FIDO: "Flight, FIDO."
Greene: "Go ahead."
FIDO: "RSO (range safety officer) reports vehicle exploded."
T+2 min 50 sec
Nesbitt: "We have a report from the flight dynamics officer that the vehicle has exploded. The flight director confirms that.
originally posted by: Glassbender777
I had heard that officials would later find out that the crew were found with water in their lungs. which meant they were still alive when the shuttle came to rest in the ocean.
They had been in 95 feet of warmish ocean water, in an area teeming with life, for six weeks. They were not really recognizable as former people. Such soft tissue as remained had become almost gelatinous and very delicate. Some had taken on a waxy, soapy texture, due to a hydrolysis reaction that takes place in seawater over time. Recovery was not a simple task. There was damage from shrimp and crabs.
As the ET broke up, the released fluids vaporized rapidly, producing an expanding cloud of gasses, vapors, and cryogenic fluid with embedded debris and localized combustion of mixed gasses. No shockwave or other evidence of a violent explosion was detected in the imagery. The illumination from the combination of the SRB plume radiance, reflected sunlight, and the periferal burning of gasses, gives the cloud the appearance of a fireball.