he video: In January 1986, Jeffrey Ault, a 19-year-old Disneyland employee, traveled from California to Florida to witness the launch of the Space Shuttle Challenger — and brought along his Super 8 camera. "I was hoping to see an event that I would remember for the rest of my life," Ault tells The Huffington Post. "I did. Just not the way I would have liked to." The vintage footage that Ault captured depicts the tragic explosion — caused 73 seconds after liftoff by a faulty seal in one of the shuttle's rockets, and killing all seven astronauts onboard — from Ault's vantage point at the Kennedy Space Center, 10 miles from Cape Canaveral. At first, spectators around Ault cheer Challenger's impressive ascent, even after the shuttle explodes. Only when a cloud of smoke billows outward and the shuttle's boosters shoot in different directions does the crowd grow confused and worried. After the accident, Ault kept the video in a box with other home movies for 26 years — until releasing it to The Huffington Post this month.
The reaction: This "chilling" video gives you a first-hand sense of "the confusion and heartbreak" that accompanied the disaster, says Eyder Peralta at NPR. And "in an era when camera phones didn't exist and video was expensive and cumbersome, this Super 8 footage is truly remarkable," says Beth Stebner at the U.K.'s Daily Mail. Plus, "considering how old the film is, it's surprisingly high quality," says Shane McGlaun at SlashGear. But boy, it's "surreal... hearing people watching excitedly, talking about the shuttle as things seemed normal." Take a look:
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