“We will not forget them, nor the last time we saw them, as they prepared for their journey and waved goodbye and ‘slipped the surly bonds of Earth’ to ‘touch the face of God'”
In 1986, the space shuttle Challenger exploded 73 seconds into its flight, killing its crew of 7. The adventurous spirit of those early pioneers of Earth’s space program lives on more than 3 centuries later and continues to inspire people to follow in their footsteps and explore the unknown corners of the galaxy. When Starfleet began deciding on names for their new Galaxy-class explorers in the mid-2360s, they decided to honor the Challenger and her crew by giving that name to the fifth ship to be completed; U.S.S. Challenger.
For the next three decades, the Challenger served Starfleet in a multitude of mission profiles, including as a warship during the Dominion War, a deep space explorer and ferrying Romulan refugees during the early 2380s. The Challenger has proven herself time and again as a capable platform capable of taking on whatever mission Starfleet Command requires of her.
Finishing up a minor refit in late 2399, the Challenger was placed under the command of Captain Thomas Forrester and given an assignment that would take her into the Gamma Quadrant for the first time in over 20 years.