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KNX 1070's Frank Mottek Recalls Covering 'Challenger' Space Tragedy

LOS ANGELES (CBS/KNX1070) — An entire nation's excitement turned to sadness on January 28, 1986 as Space Shuttle Challenger exploded 73 seconds after take off.


Memories of 'Challenger' Disaster Especially Vivid For KNX 1070's Frank Mottek

"We saw every little piece of debris raining down over the Atlantic," recalls Frank Mottek, a local journalist who eye witnessed the tragedy.

Today, Mottek is the voice of business news in Los Angeles for KNX 1070 Newsradio. But 25 years ago, at the age of 23, he was behind the mic for a historical event – a tragedy that would change American forever.

Mottek had covered numerous shuttle launches prior, but this time was different. He was sharing coverage duties that day with CBS Radio Correspondent Christopher Glenn.

"We were told everything was good to go."

In fact, just a minute after liftoff, Glenn and Motek signed off, shook hands.

"And suddenly, a fireball appeared in the sky."

Then, the two men were immediately back on air.

"He was shaking as we all were because we couldn't believe the site in the sky there."

The fate of the seven crew members aboard Challenger unknown for another hour.

"And suddenly, the flag was lowered to half staff and the news conference began and then it was clear that no one had survived."

Twenty-five years later, Mottek looks back at the various chapters of his career, reflecting on what he learned from the Space Shuttle Challenger tragedy.

"Tragedy reinforces our humanity, certainly."

And to this day, it remains the closest story to his heart.

"Certainly, the memory of that day and Challenger and the astronauts, will be with me forever and certainly the broadcast by Christopher Glenn will also be with me forever as well."

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