Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Dissertation




College of Arts and Sciences

First Advisor

Allison Marsh


The sudden explosion of the Challenger space shuttle seventy-three seconds into its launch in 1986 not only brought the American space program to a halt for almost three years, but also firmly imprinted itself upon public memory. The Challenger accident, preceded by the Apollo 1 and later followed by the Columbia, became a unique event to memorialize. Witnessed by people of all ages due to the presence of schoolteacher Christa McAuliffe, the impact of the tragedy was exacerbated by the media storm which followed. In the months and years after the accident, a plethora of monuments, memorials, and museum exhibits were constructed to honor the lost astronauts. This essay will examine how and why the Challenger accident has persisted in American memory.