front page 1986

On June 18, 2019, LNP celebrated its 225th anniversary.

The earliest newspaper to which today’s LNP traces its roots was the Lancaster Journal, first published on June 18, 1794, by William Hamilton and Henry Willcocks from a news office located in a tavern building at the King Street site of the current LNP building.

To celebrate 225 years of Lancaster newspapers, we present this series of 52 front pages from the history of the newspapers which would eventually become LNP. 


Challenger explosion

"We come to a time where something happens, and we have a tragedy that goes along with our triumphs. I guess that's the story of mankind."

Astronaut John Glenn spoke these words hours after one of the most dramatic air tragedies of the 20th century. On Jan. 28, 1986, the Challenger space shuttle exploded in the sky over the coast of Cape Canaveral, Florida, killing all seven people aboard just less than a minute and a half after takeoff. Francis Scobee, Michael Smith, Ronald McNair, Ellison Onisuka, Judith Resnick, Gregory Jarvis and Christa McAuliffe died in the first in-flight disaster in 56 manned space missions, according to the Intelligencer Journal. McAuliffe, a social studies teacher, was to be the first teacher - and the first civilian - in space. 

The causes of the rocket's failure were many and, as forensic tests would later prove, mostly avoidable. On the morning of the launch, the temperature was below freezing, much lower than the previous record of 54 degrees. Though teams were dispatched to remove ice from the launch tower, the shuttle was never proven to be able to launch in such frigid conditions. 

Another cause of the explosion was NASA's use of rubber O-rings to seal the joints on solid rocket boosters. In the original design, O-rings were meant to close tightly when the rocket ignited. However, tests showed that booster combustion could potentially lead to hot gas leaking through and destroying the joints. By 1985, numerous shuttle launches had shown examples of extensive O-ring damage, but plans went ahead.

During a pre-fight conference call, engineers made their case for delaying the launch to a warmer day but were ignored. The take-off already had been delayed from its initial Jan. 22 launch date because of various problems and setbacks.

The engineers' concerns were unfortunately proven valid quickly after launch, as smoke could be seen emerging from one of the boosters, confirming the failure of the O-rings. Pressure dropped because of a large hole developing in a liquid hydrogen tank. Just before the breakup of the craft, pilot Michael Smith can be heard saying, "Uh oh," which was the last audio received from the Challenger.

The exact point at which the seven people on board died has never been pinpointed. There is evidence that the cabin was not depressurized before impact, but even if there was enough oxygen to keep crew members conscious, none would have survived the cabin hitting the surface of the Atlantic Ocean at more than 200 miles per hour.

In the weeks and months that followed, tributes, eulogies and promises to prevent similar disasters were made. Nearly three years later, space shuttle Discovery would lift off successfully, giving renewed hope to the prospect of future space travel.