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1986: Challenger Explodes, Chernoble Nuclear Disaster, Iran-Contra Scandal

By Patrick Mondout

The Space Shuttle Challenger exploding was the most memorable story of the decade, let alone the year. The Chernobyl nuclear disaster in the Soviet Union and the beginnings of the Iran-Contra scandal were also big stories. 

Major Stories

January 20: The French and British governments jointly announce plans to construct the Channel Tunnel.
January 24: NASA's Voyager 2 becomes the first space probe to visit Uranus.
January 26: The Chicago Bears complete an 18-1 season by crushing the New England Patriots 46-10 in Super Bowl XX.
January 28
: The Space Shuttle Challenger explodes 73 seconds after takeoff killing all six astronauts and "Teacher in Space" program participant Christa McAuliffe.
February 19: Soviet Union launches the Mir Space Station.
February 25: Filipino Dictator Ferdinand Marcos and his wife Imelda flee (sans her shoe collection) the island nation ending 20 years of brutal rule.
February 26: Corazon Aquino, widow of opposition leader Benigno Aquino, becomes president of the Philippines.
February 28: In a crime that remains unsolved to this day, Prime Minister Olof Palme of Sweden is shot dead while walking home with his wife from a theatre.
March 9: Crew compartment of the Space Shuttle Challenger is recovered by U.S. Navy divers with the bodies of all seven still inside.
March 20: Conservative Jacques Chirac becomes France's new prime minister.
April 5: Two U.S. soldiers were killed, and 79 American servicemen were injured in a Libyan bomb attack on a discotheque in West Berlin, West Germany. In retaliation, U.S. military jets bombed targets in and around Tripoli and Benghazi.
April 26: Chernobyl nuclear plant in the Ukraine explodes killing 31 in the world's worst nuclear disaster. Many more will die in coming years due to radiation exposure.
May 25: Americans pass colds on to one another during "Hands Across America."
June 19: Len Bias, the second pick by the Boston Celtics in the NBA draft held a day earlier, dies of a cocaine overdose.
July 4: The repaired Statue of Liberty is unveiled by President Reagan following three years of repairs which saw 100-year-old Lady Liberty covered in scaffolding (used to great affect in the b-movie Remo Williams).
July 23: Sarah Ferguson marries Prince Andrew, the Duke of York, at Westminster Abbey in London.
August 20: Patrick Henry Sherrill becomes the first USPS employee to go postal when he kills 14 of his coworkers at the Edmond, Oklahoma post office before turning the gun on himself. The rampage is the first incident of many leading directly to the pop culture phrase "going postal."
October 11: President Reagan and Soviet leader Gorbachev held their second summit meeting at Reykjavik, Iceland.
November 11: Burroughs and Sperry Rand agree to merge to form Unisys. The giant becomes the second largest computer company behind IBM.
November 21: NSC member Oliver North and his secretary Fawn Hall becoming shredding evidence implicating North in weapons sales to Iran and to illegal transfers of the proceeds to Contra rebels in Nicaragua.
November 29: North Korean agents planted a bomb aboard Korean Air Lines Flight 858, which subsequently crashed into the Indian Ocean.

 
 
 


Smoke can already be seen (bottom-right - enhanced) pouring out of a Solid Rocket Booster on launch of Challenger, January 28, 1986.

Courtesy of NASA



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