"The Challenger's Final Minutes"

The Challenger astronauts' last words, or a tabloid hoax?

Compiled/written by Rick Adams
"Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." —John 15:13

God bless you, Francis Scobee, Michael Smith, Judith Resnik, Ellison Onizuka, Ronald McNair, Gregory Jarvis, and Christa McAuliffe. We will not forget you.
Addendum, February 1, 2003: Sadly, we now can add the names Rick Husband, William McCool, Michael Anderson, David Brown, Kalpana Chawla, Laurel Clark, and Ilan Ramon to this list. "They slipped the surly bonds of Earth to touch the face of God." God bless you all.

    NASA's official transcript of the Challenger flight recorder.

      This transcript was made from the Challenger's OPS2 tape recorder system, which recorded voice communication among the Challenger crew and between the crew and ground control. The unit was recovered from the ocean floor 43 days after the Challenger accident. IBM engineers helped NASA painstakingly restore the tape's data, and this transcript is said to be the complete result, up till loss of data at T + 73 seconds.

    The disputed additional transcript of "The Challenger's Final Minutes."

      This transcript surfaced on the Internet as early as 1993, and alleges to be additional material suppressed from NASA's official transcript, continuing at T + 75 seconds. It was originally published in the tabloid newspaper Weekly World News in 1991 (Part One and Part Two) and republished in 1993. A different version was published in 1996, going back to the initial version when it was again republished in 1999. It has also circulated on Usenet and a number of web sites. NASA states that this transcript is a fake, and its authenticity is widely disbelieved.

    News accounts regarding Challenger flight recorder transcripts/tapes.

      Information about the recovery of the flight recorder, the official NASA transcript, and various unsuccessful FOIA requests and legal suits brought by the media to obtain copies of NASA's actual recordings.

    The New York Times Company v. National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

      Excerpts from court cases in which the New York Times unsuccessfully tried to get copies of the actual recordings. NASA was able to deny the New York Times' Freedom of Information Act request by asserting that the written transcripts were full and complete, there was no additional information to be gleaned from voice inflections or cabin background noise, and thus the request would unnecessarily invade the astronauts' privacy and cause pain to their loved ones.

    NASA's rebuttal to speculation about recordings or transcripts beyond T + 73 seconds.

      Brian Welch, Chief, News and Information at NASA headquarters in Washington, weighs in with an extremely informative, well-written Usenet posting that gives NASA's definitive answer.

    Shuttle power and the OPS2 recorder.

      Steve Patlan at NASA/JSC Electrical Power Systems argues passionately against the validity of the transcript by describing the inner workings of the shuttle's power systems. The OPS2 recorder, unlike modern "black box" flight recorders, did not have an independent power supply, and it's exceedingly unlikely that the shuttle's three fuel cells produced power more than a few seconds after the explosion, he states. This would render the existence of any recording past that point impossible.

    Dennis Powell and the origins of the "transcript."

      Dennis Powell, a noted freelance journalist twice nominated for a Pulitzer prize for his Challenger coverage, explains how he was asked by a tabloid reporter to elaborate on a rumored recording of the astronauts' last moments that he had heard about but been unable to verify. Out of this phone conversation, Dennis alleges, the "transcript" published in the Weekly World News was born.

 Rick Adams — http://www.rickadams.org/webmaster@rickadams.org