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Ronald Reagan's speech following the Challenger explosion

On January 28, 1986, President Reagan postponed the scheduled State of the Union in order to address the nation about the loss of the space shuttle Challenger.


This Jan. 28, 1986 file photo shows President Ronald Reagan in the Oval Office of the White House, after he spoke to the nation in the wake of the Challenger explosion.

Dennis Cook/AP

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January 28, 1986

Ladies and Gentlemen, I'd planned to speak to you tonight to report on the state of the Union, but the events of earlier today have led me to change those plans. Today is a day for mourning and remembering. Nancy and I are pained to the core by the tragedy of the shuttle Challenger. We know we share this pain with all of the people of our country. This is truly a national loss.

Nineteen years ago, almost to the day, we lost three astronauts in a terrible accident on the ground. But we've never lost an astronaut in flight. We've never had a tragedy like this.

And perhaps we've forgotten the courage it took for the crew of the shuttle. But they, the Challenger Seven, were aware of the dangers, but overcame them and did their jobs brilliantly. We mourn seven heroes: Michael Smith, Dick Scobee, Judith Resnik, Ronald McNair, Ellison Onizuka, Gregory Jarvis, and Christa McAuliffe.


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