While 30 years have passed since space shuttle Challenger exploded in the sky, the loss the tragedy created for earth is still tangible.

Challenger blasted off on Jan. 28, 1986 in Florida, lasting 73 seconds after a rubber seal in one of the shuttle's twin booster rockets failed, triggering an explosion.

Christa McAuliffe, a New Hampshire school teacher, was one of seven people on board and none of them survived.

McAuliffe sent an application to NASA — as did thousands of others — in response to a contest that promised to send the winner to space. The applicant pool was narrowed down to ten and McAuliffe was chosen for the journey.

"It's not often that a teacher is at a loss for words, I know my students wouldn't think so," she said in July 1985, months before Challenger took off.

"I've made nine wonderful friends over the last two weeks and when that shuttle goes there might be one body but there's going to be 10 souls that I'm taking with me."

Scott Young, an astronomer at the Manitoba Museum's Planetarium, said McAuliffe would have been for her generation what Chris Hadfield is for his, in spite of a few differences.

"She wasn't an astronaut or a government official … She was just literally a school teacher from New Hampshire that had won a contest to go along and she was going to be the first normal person to go into space," he said.

"She was going to teach her class from space … They were going to use space to inspire a new generation of scientists and engineers and astronauts. That was probably the biggest thing we lost …"

Still, Young said Challenger's aftermath brought about significant changes in NASA's culture.

"A lot of the folks at NASA point to those accidents as watershed moments where things suddenly get a lot better," he said.

"Ultimately, they realized that while there was a technical failure that caused the explosion, it wouldn't have happened if they weren't pushing so hard and so NASA's entire culture had to change."