Space: Three Terrifying Minutes?

Challenger's Crew May Not Have Died Instantly

Just three seconds after Commander Francis Scobee radioed "Roger, go at throttle up" last Jan. 28, the Challenger was smashed to pieces, instantly killing the shuttle astronauts. That, at least, is what most Americans have believed for the past six months. Last week NASA revealed the chilling truth: at best, the crew of the doomed shuttle knew, if only for a few seconds, that something was terribly wrong. At worst, they remained conscious for two minutes and 45 seconds, until the crew compartment, still largely intact, smashed into the Atlantic.

As recently as mid-July, a NASA spokesman had announced that examination...

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