In 1986, President Gary Hart delivers his State of the Union address. He had hoped to be able to refer in his speech to a successful launch of the space shuttle Challenger carrying into orbit Christa McAuliffe, the New Hampshire social studies teacher chosen to be the first civilian to fly aboard the shuttle and already dubbed the "teacher in space" by the media.
Teacher in Space by Eric LippsHowever, engineers at NASA contractor Morton Thiokol warned that earlier fixes to the spacecraft's O-ring seals might not be enough to prevent a catastrophic failure in the unusually cold weather of the scheduled launch date, and as a result, the planned liftoff has been delayed.
The shuttle's continuing unreliability, which has repeatedly led to mission postponements, has become a sore point between the Hart administration and Congress on the one side and NASA on the other. The President is considering ordering NASA to begin work on a new generation of orbiter designed from the beginning to avoid the problems encountered with the existing shuttle fleet. None of this registers with Hart's growing chorus of critics, who will quickly brand the delayed launch of this much-ballyhooed mission "one more bungle on the part of an incompetent administration".
This article is set in the No Chappaquiddick timeline in which explores the consequences of an EMK Presidency 1977-1985.