Challenger: A True Story of Heroism and Disaster on the Edge of Space (Hardcover)

Challenger: A True Story of Heroism and Disaster on the Edge of Space By Adam Higginbotham Cover Image
On Our Shelves Now
1 on hand, as of Jul 19 12:00pm
1 on hand, as of Jul 19 10:40am
2 on hand, as of Jul 19 11:55am
Downtown Brooklyn
1 on hand, as of Jul 19 12:09pm
1 on hand, as of Jul 19 11:55am


From the New York Times bestselling author of Midnight in Chernobyl comes the definitive, dramatic, minute-by-minute story of the Challenger disaster, based on fascinating in-depth reporting and new archival research—a riveting history that reads like a thriller.

On January 28, 1986, just seventy-three seconds into flight, the space shuttle Challenger broke apart over the Atlantic Ocean, killing all seven people on board. Millions of Americans witnessed the tragic deaths of the crew, which included New Hampshire schoolteacher Christa McAuliffe. Like the assassination of JFK, the Challenger disaster is a defining moment in twentieth-century history—one that forever changed the way America thought of itself and its optimistic view of the future. Yet the full story of what happened, and why, has never been told.

Based on extensive archival research and metic­ulous, original reporting, Challenger: A True Story of Heroism and Disaster on the Edge of Space follows a handful of central protagonists—including each of the seven members of the doomed crew—through the years leading up to the accident, and offers a detailed account of the tragedy itself and the inves­tigation afterward. It’s a compelling tale of ambition and ingenuity undermined by political cynicism and cost-cutting in the interests of burnishing national prestige; of hubris and heroism; and of an investigation driven by leakers and whistleblowers determined to bring the truth to light. Throughout, there are the ominous warning signs of a tragedy to come, recognized but then ignored, and later hidden from the public.

Higginbotham reveals the history of the shuttle program and the lives of men and women whose stories have been overshadowed by the disaster, as well as the designers, engineers, and test pilots who struggled against the odds to get the first shuttle into space. A masterful blend of riveting human drama and fascinating and absorbing science, Challenger identifies a turning point in history—and brings to life an even more complex and astonishing story than we remember.

About the Author

Adam Higginbotham has written for The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, Wired, GQ, and Smithsonian. He is the author of Midnight in Chernobyl, which was the winner of the William E. Colby Award and the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction, and Challenger: A True Story of Heroism and Disaster on the Edge of Space. He lives with his family in New York City.

Praise For…

“Gripping history . . . Higginbotham’s colorful narrative contrasts the eager idealism of Challenger’s crew, including schoolteacher Christa McAuliffe, with the arrogance of NASA honchos who dismissed warnings and casually gambled with the astronauts’ lives. His account of the engineering issues is lucid and meticulous, and his evocative prose conveys both the extraordinary achievement of rocket scientists in harnessing colossal energies with delicate mechanisms and the sudden cataclysms that erupt when the machinery fails. The result is a beguiling saga of the peril and promise of spaceflight.” Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“A deeply researched, fluently written study in miscommunication, hubris, and technological overreach.” Kirkus Reviews (starred)

“Higginbotham’s comprehensive and affecting recounting and explanation illuminates a tragedy that was entirely preventable.” Booklist (starred review)

“Adam Higginbotham has written a gripping, eye-opening, moving, and finely detailed history of not just an infamous disaster but a whole generation of the Space Age. Picking up where Tom Wolfe left off, this book stands as the fascinating sequel to The Right Stuff, mixing together science, politics, and space exploration and providing a unique window into the lives of those Americans who have reached for the stars. Even though you know how the story ends, you'll eagerly turn the beautifully written pages wondering what comes next. Challenger is one of this generation’s best nonfiction writers working at the top of his game.” —Garrett M. Graff, author of The Only Plane in the Sky and Watergate

“A masterly example of how meticulous research and adherence to factual detail can build a narrative of almost unbearable suspense. At the same time, with the outcome known from the beginning, the story has the implacable power of tragic inevitability.” —Geoff Dyer, author of The Last Days of Roger Federer: And Other Endings

“Gripping and memorable, a definitive account of an American tragedy.” Ed Caesar, author of The Moth and the Mountain


“Superb, enthralling and necessarily terrifying . . . the accident unfurls with a horrible inevitability. Weaving together the experiences of those who were there that night, Higginbotham marshals the details so meticulously that every step feels spring-loaded with tension. . . . Amid so much rich reporting and scrupulous analysis, some major themes emerge. . . . Higginbotham’s extraordinary book is another advance in the long struggle to fill in some of the gaps, bringing much of what was hidden into the light.” —Jennifer Szalai, The New York Times

“A gripping miss-your-subway-stop read . . . Higginbotham captures the nerve-racked Soviet atmosphere brilliantly.” —The New York Times Book Review

“A compelling, panoramic account.” The Christian Science Monitor

“An account that reads almost like the script for a movie . . . Mr. Higginbotham has captured the terrible drama.” The Wall Street Journal

Midnight in Chernobyl is top-notch historical narrative: a tense, fast-paced, engrossing, and revelatory product of more than a decade of research. . . . A stunningly detailed account . . . For all its wealth of information, the work never becomes overwhelming or difficult to follow. Higginbotham humanizes the tale, maintaining a focus on the people involved and the choices, both heroic and not, they made in unimaginable circumstances. This is an essential human tale with global consequences.” —Booklist (starred review)
Product Details
ISBN: 9781982176617
ISBN-10: 198217661X
Publisher: Avid Reader Press / Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: May 14th, 2024
Pages: 576
Language: English