Twenty five years later, the nation remembers one of the most sombering moments of space exploration.
Twenty-five years later, the pictures and the pain still linger.
"It was such a shock to the nation, it hit deep in our psyche," said Senator Bill Nelson, former shuttle astronaut.
It is an image seared into our national memory and honored now with memorials, including the annual laying of wreathes at Kennedy Space Center.
Seven were lost that day, including the first teacher-astronaut, Christa McAuliffe.
"To hear that there was going to be a way to talk to a teacher in space, this was all new ideas, and how does that happen?" said Micaela pond, a teacher.
It didn't, and hasn't since.
But the dream of McAuliffe, to break through barriers, has endured.
Dozens of schools around the world bear her name, and there are at least 50 Challenger learning centers - dedicated to teaching math, science, and space to a new generation.
Perhaps the most enduring legacy to seven American heroes is remembered today.