January 1986 – 30 years ago

Years ago

Challenger Flight 51-l crew. - The Local Mid Westjpg
The crew of Space Shuttle mission STS-51-L pose for their official portrait on November 15, 1985. In the back row from left to right: Ellison S. Onizuka, Sharon Christa McAuliffe, Greg Jarvis, and Judy Resnik. In the front row from left to right: Michael J. Smith, Dick Scobee, and Ron McNair.

The Challenger Disaster

73 seconds after lift-off at the Kennedy Space Center on 28 January 1986, the Space Shuttle Challenger disinter-grated killing all seven crew members onboard.

It was later determined it was the failure of o-ring seals on one of the shuttle’s Solid Rocket Boosters that caused the disaster.

As part of the “Teacher in Space Project”, one of the crew members was civilian teacher, Sharon Christa McAuliffe. The original plan for the project was to have Sesame Street’s Big Bird on the mission but NASA scrapped the idea when it was determined the “Big Bird” suit would not fit into the shuttle. McAiliffe replaced the would be puppeteer, Caroll Spinney.

Another crew member, Gregory Jarvis was scheduled to be part of the previous flight but was re-assigned when his original spot was passed to a US congressman.



Rocky IV heads the Box Office list for January 1986. The bad guy this time was Dolph Lundgren. In terms of sports movies, it was the biggest for 24 years before the release of Bind Side in 2009. It was financially the most successful of the Rocky series.

The Louis Gossett Jr movie, Iron Eagle was also huge earning more the US$24 million.

Steven Spielberg’s the Colour Purple featuring Oprah Winfrey’s film debut was also up there along with the multi Academy Award winning, Out of Africa with Robert Redford and Meryl Streep.

The Brain Virus

The Brain also known as the Lahore virus was the first IBM PC virus. It was released on January 19, 1986 by two Pakistani brothers, Basil and Amjad Farooq Alvi.

The virus was accompanied by the text, “Welcome to the Dungeon” and phone numbers to contact for a “vaccination”.

The brothers were inundated with angry phone calls from around the world and were surprised at the reaction. They insisted their motivation was not malicious.

In 2011, 25 years after the Brain, a documentary was made about the brothers who are still in business today

Kylie MinogueThe soapy Neighbours was a failure for the Seven Net-work where it lasted only four months. Channel 10 bought the rights but not before Seven destroyed the original sets to ensure their rivals did not get their hands on them.

Ten took over production and introduced a younger cast which included Jason Donovan and Kylie Minogue.

The first episode from Ten aired on 20 January 1986. The show took off and has become Australia’s longest running drama series. In fact, the “wedding” episode was one Australia’s highest rating soap episodes. Additionally, 20 million UK fans were also captivated by it when it aired there.

Neighbours was inducted into the Logie Hall of Fame in 2005.


Midnight Oil Local Mid WestMidnight Oil’s only Australian Singles number one was an EP called Species Deceases. It consisted of four tracks: Progress, Hercules, Blossom and Blood and Pictures.

The other number one for the month of January was Starship’s We Built This City. One of the songwriters was none other than Bernie Taupin, long time collaborator with Sir Elton John.

It topped the US Charts in November 1985 before ma-king it to No.1 in Australia.


The book on top of the best sellers list in January 1986 was Carl Sagan’s Contact. As the title suggests, it deals with human contact with an extraterrestrial life form.

The story was originally a screenplay in 1979, but when development of the movie stopped, Sagan converted it to a novel.

The movie was eventually made with Jodie Foster starring in 1997.



I went to the museum where they had all the heads and arms from the statues that are in all the other museums.”
Steven Wright