The seven crew members of Space Shuttle Challenger was lost when the ship suffered a breakup in flight during the launch on January 28, 1986.
Meridiani Planum was selected by NASA because of deposits of a mineral called crystalline hematite, which usually forms in the presence of liquid water. Scientists were in hopes that the landing site would be one where they could examine both the surface layer that is rich in hematite and an underlying geology of the light-colored layered rock. The small crater in which Opportunity alighted appears to have exposures of both, with soil that could be hematite and an exposed outcrop of the lighter rock layer.
Challenger commander was Francis R. Scobee and the mission pilot Michael J. Smith. Mission specialists included Judith A. Resnik, Ellison S. And Ronald E. onizuka McNair. The mission also made two payload specialists, Gregory B. Jarvis and Sharon Christa McAuliffe, who was the agency's first teacher in space.
Opportunity successfully landed on Mars January 25, 2004. It has far surpassed its initial three month mission of exploring the region around what is now known as Challenger Memorial Station to determine if Mars was liquid and capable of sustaining life.