Beyonce Criticized for Sampling Audio From Challenger Disaster on New Album

Beyonce Knowles on December 21, 2013 in New York City
Beyonce responded to criticism over her decision to sample audio from the 1986 Challenger disaster in her song "XO" Kevin Mazur/

Beyonce's surprise visual album is a hit with critics and fans alike — but one song is stirring up controversy among an unlikely group. "XO," about a troubled relationship, has been criticized as "insensitive" by some current and former NASA employees, who are unhappy with the superstar's use of audio from the Challenger disaster of 1986.

The brief sample can be heard at the beginning of the video for the song, written and produced by Ryan Tedder and Terius "The Dream" Nash. It features the voice of retired NASA public affairs officer Steve Nesbitt on Jan. 28, 1986, the day the space shuttle Challenger exploded after liftoff from the Kennedy Space Center, killing all seven crew members aboard.

"Flight controllers here looking very carefully at the situation," Nesbitt said at the time. "Obviously a major malfunction."

June Scobee Rodgers, the widow of Challenger Commander Dick Scobee, told ABC News she was "disappointed" in the use of the clip, as it brought back memories of that fateful day.

"The moment included in this song is an emotionally difficult one for the Challenger families, colleagues, and friends," she said. "We have always chosen to focus not on how our loved ones were lost but rather on how they lived and how their legacy lives on today."

"For the words to be used in the video is simply insensitive, at the very least," retired astronaut Clayton Anderson told ABC.

Beyonce, for her part, said Monday that she meant to honor, not offend those affected by the tragedy. "My heart goes out to the families of those lost in the Challenger disaster," she shared in a statement to Us Weekly. "The song 'XO' was recorded with the sincerest intention to help heal those who have lost loved ones and to remind us that unexpected things happen, so love and appreciate every minute that you have with those who mean the most to you."

She added: "The songwriters included the audio in tribute to the unselfish work of the Challenger crew with hope that they will never be forgotten."

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