GRANT, Mich., (WZZM) - Exactly 27 years ago, an explosion took the lives of seven astronauts on board the space shuttle Challenger. Nearly three decades later, the catastrophic events are still on the minds of many, including a West Michigan man who witnessed the launch while he was living in Florida.
"It was a beautiful day to watch," says Terry Fett who now lives in Grant. In 1986, he was watching from his front yard in Clearwater, Florida. He says he was expecting a breathtaking sight in the sky, despite being 90 miles away. "You really get a beautiful view of the contrail as it goes up into orbit. I can't describe it."
About a minute into the launch, Terry knew something was wrong. "To this day, I'll never forget the feeling I had in me. I could feel and hear the screams, yet there was nobody around us. We could feel it."
Terry and his family went inside to hear what they were saying on television. "And shortly after that, the word was there was a catastrophic failure."
Seven astronauts were killed, including the first civilian to go into space. Christa McAuliffe was a teacher from New Hampshire. Her family was at the launch. "Her mother, father, and her students were all there. "It was very devastating, a very sad day," says Fett.
The cause of the explosion was eventually blamed on a faulty O-ring in the right solid rocket booster. It was a tragic accident that Fett and many others, who were alive at the time, will never forget.