Off Duty - Space Shuttle Challenger with Bob Holcomb

On January 28th, 1986, the space shuttle Challenger was launched in extremely cold temperatures, and after 73 seconds of flight, disintegrated due to a failure of one of the solid rocket boosters, causing the vehicle to explode at an altitude of nine miles while traveling at a speed of 1500 miles per hour. All seven astronauts aboard perished in the accident. In this Off Duty talk, Bob Holcomb will present some background information about how the accident occurred, the decision process to launch in such cold temperatures, and how the vehicle was destroyed. He will also discuss some of the accident investigation findings, and how the process was revised for future space shuttle launches.


Dr. Robert C. Holcomb is an adjunct staff member in the Institute for Defense Analyses (IDA) in Alexandria, Virginia. He received his BS degree from the United States Military Academy in 1973, his MS degree in Operations Research from the Naval Postgraduate School in 1982, and his Ph.D. in Information Technology from George Mason University in 2011. Dr. Holcomb retired from the Army in 1993 as a lieutenant colonel after a twenty-year career. In September 2017, Dr. Holcomb retired from his full-time position at IDA and became a part-time adjunct. Dr. Holcomb’s upcoming book Stone Tapestry: a guided tour through the West Point cemetery and American history will be available from Schiffer Publishing in Summer 2023.



Off Duty is a free outdoor speaker series hosted by the George C. Marshall International Center. Each event features a speaker discussing a topic that touches on history adjacent to George C. Marshall and the times in which he lived. The events run around 90 minutes long, with light refreshments and opportunities for networking before and after the discussion.

For this event, casual wear is encouraged – Bob is a big fan of Hawaiian shirts! 


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