January 28, 1986
The space shuttle Challenger explodes 73 seconds after lift-off, killing the crew of seven, including New Hampshire schoolteacher Christa McAuliffe. McAuliffe and Judith A. Resnik were the first U.S. women astronauts to die on a space mission.
NASA managers had known since 1977 that the design of the solid rocket boosters contained a potentially catastrophic flaw in the o-rings and also disregarded warnings from engineers about the dangers of launching in low temperatures. The main concern was that the o-rings would lose their elasticity in cold temperatures and not be able to form a seal. It was unusually cold that day with morning temperatures at 30 °F (−1 °C). The o-rings failed to seal causing the catastrophic explosion of the shuttle.
Freddie Prinze Suicide
January 29, 1977
Twenty-two-year-old actor Freddie Prinze dies after a self-inflicted gunshot wound the previous day. Prinze is best known for his role as Chico in TV’s Chico and the Man (1974-78), with his catch phrase, “Looking good!”
Prinze suffered from depression and was going through a divorce when he called family and friends to tell them he going to commit suicide. His business manager came over to help the distraught Prinze, but while he was there Prinze put a gun to his head and shot himself. He was rushed to the hospital, but died the following day. A presumed suicide note was found, stating “I can’t go on”. His death was initially ruled a suicide. However, in 1983 his mother filed a civil suit and the jury ruled that his death was medication induced and accidental, enabling the family to receive a significant life insurance settlement.
Just months before his death, Prinze had signed a five-year deal with NBC worth $6 million.
The Beatles – Rooftop Concert
January 30, 1969
The Beatles give their last public performance – an unannounced rooftop concert on their Apple headquarters in London. The group was joined by Billy Preston and played for 42 minutes before the gig ended after an accountant from the nearby Royal Bank of Scotland called the police to stop the noise.