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On January 28th 1986 at 11:39am EDT the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded while carrying out its 10th flight during mission STS-51-L.  It was the 25th Space Shuttle Mission and aboard the shuttle was teacher, Christa McAuliffe, who was to be the first teacher in space as part of the Teacher in Space program.

Armatomic reports 17% of Americans witnessed the event live on CNN -- the only network carrying the live broadcast, while 85% of Americans heard of the news within 1 hour of the event.  Armatomic notes a study's findings that only 2 other times in history up to that point had news of an event disseminated so fast - the first being the announcement of JFK's assassination in 1963, the second being news spread among students at Kent State regarding the news of FDR's death in 1945.

It has been estimated at the time that nearly 48% of 9-13 year olds witnessed the event in their classrooms, as McAuliffe was in the spotlight.