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Challenger: An American Tragedy: The Inside Story from Launch Control [Kindle Edition]

Hugh Harris
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)

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Book Description

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.

Editorial Reviews


“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.” —

“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.” —

About the Author

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.

Product Details

  • File Size: 658 KB
  • Print Length: 87 pages
  • Publisher: Open Road Media (January 28, 2014)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00HO12CRC
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #164,866 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Dream is (still) alive! January 28, 2014
Format:Kindle Edition
When we were sure that the Space Shuttle Program was well behind us, and all the books that have been written about it where published, comes a rear little gem of a book, Challenger: An American Tragedy, written by Hugh Harris. The book has sixty-one pages, sixteen chapters, six photographs and no statistical graphs. So what is so special about this newcomer and why should this book be found in every library in the Unites States and hopefully read by every student born after 1986 at home and abroad as well as by «Shuttle» enthusiasts in every country around the world. The answer lies with the author and his brilliantly written sixteen chapters. They are in chronological order, with matching page numbers on the right side,

Chapter one: A look back twenty-eight years (3)
Chapter two: A cold, cold night (5)
Chapter three: The launch (10)
Chapter four: After the launch (17)
Chapter five: Challenger and the White House (22)
Chapter six: Reporters, reporters everywhere (25)
Chapter seven: The Commission (27)
Chapter eight: Scoop! (29)
Chapter nine: Whose fault was it? (31)
Chapter ten: The search at sea (34)
Chapter eleven: Putting together the pieces (38)
Chapter twelve: Commission conclusions (41)
Chapter thirteen: The crew (44)
Chapter fourteen: The response (47)
Chapter fifteen: The return to flight (51)
Chapter sixteen: The challenge remains (54)

This is the true and "down-to-earth" story about the Challenger STS-33/51-L Shuttle disaster which happened on Tuesday, January 28, 1986, as seen through the eyes of Hugh Harris, the veteran NASA launch commenter who spent thirty-five years covering major technological events, often being referred to as "The Voice of NASA". At 11:38 a.m.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Different Perspective on a Well Told Story March 2, 2014
Format:Kindle Edition
With several excellent books on the Challenger disaster available, why would anybody write another? The answer in this case is that this is an account by the voice of NASA himself, Hugh Harris, someone who must have had a unique perspective on the events of January 28th, 1986 as they occurred. This is his take on the story.

It is a pretty slim volume; a fast reader will get through it in about 45 minutes. If you have read one of the other excellent accounts of the disaster by Cook, Vaughan or McDonald and Hansen this book is not going to tell you much that is new. Nor, if by some chance you happen to be totally unfamiliar with the Challenger disaster, will it give you much more than an overview of some of what happened.

Nonetheless, it has a certain easy charm. It is thoroughly readable and does deliver a few surprises and thought provoking insights. For those interested in the disaster, it would make a useful addition to their library; however for anybody who is looking for a thorough account of the events leading up to and following on from this catastrophe, there are better places to start.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A Diminutive Disappointment August 12, 2014
By Spits
Format:Kindle Edition
The definitive works on the Challenger tragedy were written 20 years ago. Having read a number of them, I was a bit incredulous about one written 28 years after the incident. What could remain untold? As it turns out, nothing. Unfortunately, Mr. Harris's diminutive work adds little, if anything, to the body of work on the subject. His observations are extremely limited and not of particular interest to the reader interested in the intricacies and complexities of the events that led to the loss of the Challenger and her crew. The Roger's Commission Report addressed deficiencies associated with every facet of the program from the previously known design deficiency in the SRM field joint to the heavy-handed, isolationist management style of the NASA MSFC management, yet Mr. Harris breezes through these topics in brief chapters that barely scratch the surface.
The lack of depth and insight is compounded by Mr. Harris's disjointed writing style. I read the book on a tablet and on more then a few occasions had to check to ensure that I didn't skip a page. The writing is discontinuous and choppy; the editor has to share in the blame for that, of course.
Overall, a disappointing effort.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Straight forward good read March 23, 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I read this book in one sitting. In depth information which meshed perfectly with my memories of the event. I did, however, feel that the narrative was somewhat slanted in favor of NASA. This is offset by pointing out structure changes made within NASA
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic! February 2, 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Very interesting. This short book (or long long-form article) strikes a nice balance between the technical details at NASA and the human story of Challenger. Thanks!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Challenger. An American Tragedy. by Hugh Harris February 4, 2015
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I enjoyed everything I read in the summation of this American tragedy. The technical information, although interesting, was not whati Interested me most. I wanted to know what happened to our astronauts following the explosion. To know their bodies were recovered, form the great depth of the ocean, then brought to the surface and eventually returned to their families brought closure to my questions and that they received a proper burial, I know eased the minds of many. Some were buried in family plots, some in military cemetery's and three others, including the teacher, Christie Mc Cullough, were buried together in a tomb at The Challenger Memorial site in Washington DC. It was the little details that interested me. Where they were found, some still in their seats, a couple were located below the others. Were their signs that some survived on their way down. What positions they were in and what condition their bodies were found in? It has been many years since The Challenger exploded but I think of it from time to time, especially when watching many lift offs from our lanai on the ocean front on Amelia Islanf, GA. My children were all present when it happened, having remained home to watch the exciting launch with a teacher aboard. When The Challenger exploded less than two minutes into flight, they screamed then sat staring dumbfounded at the TV, not believing what they saw and heard. Then the tears came ... and came. The brave astronauts are now part of our American history and will be honored and remembered along with our great American heroes forever after. In the back of my mind, my thoughts are of all the children who watched the explosion in horror, especially the families of the astronauts ... the children of Christie Mc Cullough and her students. God bless them all. Read more ›
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
Very disappointed to find that the tragedy could have possibly be been avoided.
Published 25 days ago by Margaret Hutchison
5.0 out of 5 stars A Straightforward Report By One Who Was There
An excellent report written from the inside by a man of intelligence and integrity whom I'm proud to call a friend.
Published 1 month ago by Charles W. Morley Jr.
3.0 out of 5 stars An overview of the Challenger disaster
This book is a quick read, hitting the high points of the disaster. I wished more the book had gone into more detail about the conditions leading to the tragedy and the... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Paul Herrera
5.0 out of 5 stars Fresh viewpoint after all these years
Excellent description of the story from an unusual perspective.
Published 1 month ago by Derek Buckley
4.0 out of 5 stars Sadness Prevails
It is indeed an American tragedy! And avoidable. A bit too technical for me, but probably necessary to describe the investigation and what went so badly wrong. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Beth Moffett
5.0 out of 5 stars Very good book
This book reminds us that exploration is a matter of risk, and how NASA bounced back from a horrific accident.
Published 1 month ago by James R. Pass
4.0 out of 5 stars It amazes me
It amazes me, that a multi-million dollar space shuttle was destroyed, and all those lives lost because of a few malfunctioning o-ring. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Teri Orthwein
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful Information
This book is wonderful! It tells you all about what went on before, during and after the Challenger disaster. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Madonna R.
3.0 out of 5 stars Challenger
I remember watching this tragic event happen on t.v. when I was a child. The fear and sadness if the event touched many lives and continues to do so today. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Kindle Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars very informative!
It took me about two hours to read this book. It was very interesting and informative for someone who didn't know all of the facts to this tragedy.
Published 2 months ago by Alexis
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