The people who had gathered at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on September 29, 1988, were tense and anxious. They were about to witness the launching of the space shuttle Discovery. This would be the twenty-sixth time that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) had conducted a shuttle launch (Jeffrey 5). Though its launch occurred two years late because of an accident, which could have been prevented.
More than two years earlier on January 28, 1986, the space shuttle Challenger blasted off into space for the last time. It carried six astronauts and one teacher. Their space flight ended tragically short, seventy-three seconds after lift off. Surely this accident could have been avoided if the right information reached the crew of the Challenger, but it never did.
The Flight Readiness Review for Flight 51-L was held on January 15, 1986 and certified that Challenger was " flight ready- The launch was postponed three times and scrubbed once from the planned date of January 22, 1986. The first postponement was announced on December 23, 1985, adding an extra day because of another launch running late. On January 22, 1986, the date was slipped to January 26. The third postponement occurred on January 25 when forecasts indicated the launch site weather would be unacceptable. The new launch date was set for January 27. That day was scrubbed after different minor problems were fixed and the flight was rescheduled again for the next morning.
The weather on January 28 was forecast to be clear and very cold, with temperatures dropping into the low twenties overnight. The management team directed engineers to assess the possible effects of temperatures on the launch. No critical issues were identified to NASA, and while the evaluation continued, it was decided to proceed with the countdown and load propellants into the external tank (Jenkins 277).
Ice had accumulated in the launch pad area during the night and it caused considerable concern for the launch team.