Died January 28

Christa McAuliffe became the most famous teacher in the United States as she prepared to reach for the stars aboard the space shuttle Challenger. A social studies teacher at New Hampshire's Concord High School, she was selected as the first participant in the NASA Teacher in Space Project. She planned to conduct experiments aboard the space shuttle and teach two lessons from space. But tragedy struck, and Challenger disintegrated just 73 seconds after launch. Across the country, schoolchildren were eagerly watching the launch on school televisions, and they were devastated by the loss – but they also were inspired by her story. In the years since, she has been honored for her bravery with dozens of schools named for her, as well as an asteroid and a crater on the moon. We remember McAuliffe's life today as well as the lives of other notable people who died this day in history.

Click to discover notable people who were born this day in history including painter Jackson Pollock.

2017: Geoff Nicholls, longtime keyboardist for the heavy metal band Black Sabbath, dies at 68.

2016: Paul Kantner, U.S. singer, guitarist, and songwriter who was a founding member of the band Jefferson Airplane, dies at 74.

Jefferson Airplane released their debut album in 1966 and quickly began developing a sound that would profoundly influence the psychedelic rock scene of the late 1960s. Their second album and first success, 1967's "Surrealistic Pillow," is one of the great classics of psychedelia. It included the two songs most often associated with the band: “White Rabbit” and “Somebody to Love.” Read more




2016: Signe Toly Anderson, U.S. singer who was a founding member of the band Jefferson Airplane, dies at 74.

2009: Billy Powell, U.S. musician and the longtime keyboardist for the Southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd, dies of a heart attack at 56.

The band was decimated Oct. 20, 1977, when their chartered plane crashed in a swamp near McComb, Mississippi. Six people died – lead singer Ronnie Van Zant; guitarist Steve Gaines; and his sister, vocalist Cassie Gaines; as well as an assistant road manager, the pilot, and co-pilot. Powell was one of the survivors, according to his obituary by The Associated Press. Read more




2007: The Rev. Robert F. Drinan, U.S. Roman Catholic priest and politician who represented Massachusetts in Congress for 12 years, dies of pneumonia and congestive heart failure at 86.

2005: Jim Capaldi, English drummer, singer, and songwriter who co-founded the rock band Traffic with Steve Winwood, dies of stomach cancer at 60.

2004: Joe Viterelli, U.S. character actor who had roles in movies such as "Analyze This" and "Shallow Hal," dies of complications from heart surgery at 66.

2004: Elroy Hirsch, U.S. NFL Hall of Fame wide receiver who played most of his career for the Los Angeles Rams, dies of natural causes at 80.

2002: Astrid Lindgren, Swedish author who wrote the "Pippi Longstocking" book series, dies of a viral infection at 94.

Lindgren gave Pippi the kind of life most children would love: She lives alone in a big house with her monkey and her horse, and her two best friends live right next door. Though Pippi's father loves her, he's usually off on a sea voyage, leaving Pippi to govern herself. She has superhuman strength (she can lift her horse with one hand) and she's very smart, with a special talent for duping adults who try to take advantage of children. She's eccentric and free-spirited, and she does whatever she wants. Read more




1996: Jerry Siegel, U.S. comic book writer who was the co-creator of "Superman," dies at 81.

1996: Burne Hogarth, U.S. cartoonist known best for his work on the "Tarzan" newspaper comic strip, dies at 84.

1994: Hal Smith, U.S. character actor known best for his role as Otis the town drunk on "The Andy Griffith Show" and for providing the voice for Owl in the animated film "The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh," dies at 77.

1994: William Levitt, U.S. homebuilder who built the first suburb in America in 1947, Long Island's Levittown, dies of kidney disease at 86.

Inspired by the auto industry's assembly line techniques, Levitt found a way to build homes quickly and cheaply – about one every 16 minutes during an eight-hour day. Hundreds of thousands of middle-class Americans, including returning soldiers and their families, jumped at the chance to settle in Levitt's homes, located in self-contained communities miles from urban centers. "As much as anyone, William Levitt made the American dream possible," David Halberstam noted in his book "The Fifties." Read more




1993: Aben Kandel, U.S. screenwriter who was known for B-movies such as "I Was a Teenage Werewolf," dies of heart failure at 96.

1986: Francis R. Scobee, Michael J. Smith, Ellison S. Onizuka, Judith A. Resnick, Ronald E. McNair, Christa McAuliffeand Gregory B. Jarvis are killed when the U.S. space shuttle Challenger is destroyed seconds after liftoff.

1983: Billy Fury, English rock singer who was a major star in his native England, dies of heart failure at 42.

1977: Burt Mustin, U.S. character actor who had a recurring role as Gus the fireman on "Leave It to Beaver," dies at 92.

1973: John Banner, Austrian actor known best as Sergeant Schultz on the classic sitcom "Hogan's Heroes," dies on his birthday of an abdominal bleed at 63.

1960: Zora Neale Hurston, U.S. author known best for her book "Their Eyes Were Watching God," dies at 69.

By the mid-'30s, Hurston had published a variety of short stories and essays and a collection of black folklore, "Mules and Men," culled from research in Eatonville, Florida, and New Orleans. Intrigued by the voodoo rituals she encountered in the latter city, she used her Guggenheim Fellowship grant money to conduct more research in Jamaica and Haiti. While doing field research in Haiti, she penned her second novel, "Their Eyes Were Watching God." The book was written in a mere seven weeks (Hurston tended to dash off her novels, seeing them as secondary to her ethnographic research) and is now hailed as a classic of American literature. Read more



1939: William Butler Yeats, Irish poet who won a Nobel Prize in literature for his poetry, dies at 73.

814: Charlemagne, German emperor also known as the Father of Europe, dies at 71.

Click to discover notable people who were born this day in history including painter Jackson Pollock.