New York Times best-selling author revisits 1986 space shuttle tragedy in ‘Challenger’

Adam Higginbotham was touring with his first book when got the idea from a frequent question.

The New York Times bestselling author of “Midnight in Chernobyl,” Higginbotham had spent years researching the April 26, 1986 explosion, which caused the worst nuclear disaster in history.

“People often asked me whether I remembered where I was when I heard the news about Chernobyl,” said Higginbotham in an interview with “And I always had to admit I didn’t, but what I did remember very clearly was where I was when I heard about Challenger, which happened almost exactly three months before.”

“So when I started looking for something to write for my second book, Challenger was already on my mind,” he said.

“Challenger: A True Story of Heroism and Disaster on the Edge of Space” hit store shelves on Tuesday (May 14).

Related: Space shuttle Challenger and the disaster that changed NASA forever

Adam Higginbotham, the author of “Challenger: A True Story of Heroism and Disaster at the Edge of Space.” (Image credit: Adam Higginbotham)

collectSPACE spoke with Higginbotham about “Challenger,” how he went about researching the Jan. 28, 1986 tragedy and why he thinks the loss of the STS-51L crew resonated among so many to become not just a national, but international milestone event. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

collectSPACE (cS): Since you mention remembering, where were you when you first learned of the space shuttle Challenger disaster?

Adam Higginbotham: Because of the time difference — I was at school in England — I completed my school day and went out with my friends that evening. So I didn’t learn about it until late that night, about probably nine or 10 o’clock, when I got home. My mother told me about it, and I just couldn’t comprehend what she was telling me. I was so astonished by the news.


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