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Resident Uncovers Challenger Home Video

Bob Karman captured tragedy on vacation in Florida

On Jan. 28, 1986, Hicksville resident Bob Karman and his family were waiting at the Orlando International Airport following a Disney World Vacation when they were treated to a rare event: witnessing a space shuttle launch 45 miles away from nearby Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla.

Seventy-three seconds after takeoff, the space shuttle Challenger broke apart, killing all seven crew members on board, and Karman’s camcorder, like many others that day, captured the tragedy in its entirety.

“I had never been to Florida or seen a space shuttle go off. You are waiting for the stages to separate, something to happen, but something just wasn’t right. Obviously at the time we didn’t know exactly what had happened. It wasn’t until we got on the plane that the captain made an announcement on the flight that we knew,” said Karman.

Earlier this year, near the anniversary of the Challenger, Karman, 58, a retired nurse, intended to convert his old home movies from VHS to digital in order to watch them on the computer. His daughter, Kimberly, audience development marketing manager for New Scientist magazine, was working in London when the publication released her father's video on a blog post.

“My daughter was 3 years old [in the video]. She asked me where she was, and it’s ironic that I was going through the videos at that time,” said Karman, who uploaded the video to before sending it to his daughter.

“Within 12 hours of it being on the Internet, it had gotten more than 5,000 hits. My daughter gave it to the video director and they put it on the New Scientist website.” Karman explained. The video eventually reached 1.1 million views in addition to approximately 70,000 views based on copies uploaded to Youtube.   

Karman’s video now preserves the memory of the seven astronauts onboard the Challenger, but also pays tribute his wife Betsy, who died in 2000.

“My wife passed away and she happens to be in the video. It starts off with my daughter and then pans to my wife. I figured it was great way to immortalize her on the Internet, and it turned out that it did. I asked New Scientist to include that in the beginning and they accommodated me,” said Karman, a busy man following the viral video.

Fox News had contacted Karman the day after NBC’s Nightly News with Brian Williams ran a feature on the story.

“I said, ‘I’m too tired, why don’t you call my daughter?’” Karman paused, adding, “The only problem is she’s in London.”

Karman said within 20 minutes, Fox had a limousine waiting for his daughter outside her office.

“They wanted to figure out how seeing this event when she was young influenced her life later on, if she entered the science field, did she do well in school," said Karman, whose daughter entered the science field and was the salutatorian at Hicksville High School (2001). She also studied as an undergrad at Cornell and attended graduate classes at Harvard.

After turning down some initial requests from the media, Karman later gave in and appeared on CNN News to discuss his video.

“This was a big deal with Christa McAuliffe, the teacher, going into space. It was quite a media hype prior to the launch,” said Karman.

The amateur videographer said he’s found copies of his home movie appearing online in Russian and Spanish.

As far as the rest of his collection is concerned, Karman alluded to some of the more commonly captured home movie material.   

“I’m going to put together an hour segment for America’s Funniest Home Videos, that’s what the next thing would be. I’ve got some crazy stuff, that’s for sure,” Karman said.

Visit to view Karman’s video.