The People History Home

1986 Major News Events in History

  1. Soviet Nuclear reactor at Chernobyl explodes on April 26th causing release of radioactive material across much of Europe.
  2. The Space Shuttle Challenger disintegrates 73 seconds after launching, killing all seven astronauts on board.
  3. The Oprah Winfrey Show debuts nationally.
  4. Comet Halley reaches the closest point to the Earth, during its second visit to the solar system in the 20th century.
  5. The "Hands Across America" charity event is held.
  6. The stage musical "Phantom of the Opera" debuts in London's West End.
  7. The Soviet Union launches the Mir space station.
  8. Richard Branson on the 72 ft powerboat Virgin Challenger II breaks the world record for the fastest crossing of the Atlantic.
  9. Mad Cow Disease
  10. Iran-Contra Affair President Ronald Reagan's administration sold arms to Iran

More Detailed Information on each Event and those not included can be found below

What Happened in 1986 Major Events, Born This Year, Popular Culture, Prices

What happened in 1986 Major News Stories include, Sweeping tax reform legislation USA, Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) commonly known as mad cow disease hits UK Cattle and causes major reform in farming practices. Iran-Contra Affair becomes public, US bombs Libya, Following a number of trouble free years in Space Exploration the Space Shuttle Challenger explodes shortly after take off watched by people live on TV around the world. The Internet Mail Access Protocol defined which opens the way for E-Mail and the same year the Human Genome Project is launched to understand the Human Makeup , this will open the way for great advances in the treatment of many illnesses. The worst ever Nuclear Disaster occurs as the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Station Explodes causing the release of radioactive material across much of Europe.

Cost of Living 1986 - How Much things cost

Yearly Inflation Rate USA 1.91%

Year End Close Dow Jones 1895

Interest Rates Year End Federal Reserve 7.50%

Average Cost of new house $89,430

Median Price Of and Existing Home $80,300

Average Income per year $22,400.00

Average Monthly Rent $385.00

Average Price for new car $9,255.00

1 gallon of gas 89 cents

Casio Portable Color Television $249.99

Tandy 600 Portable Computer $1599.00

Jar Of Skippy Peanut butter $1.49

Potatoes 5 Lbs $1.00

Broccoli Lb 39 Cents

Bacon per pound $1.75

Plymouth Colt $4,999

Ford Mustang $7,452

Elyria, Ohio
10 acres plus 3 bed home Fully modernised all appliances large kitchen $71,000


A few UK Examples in Pounds Sterling

Average House Price 44,040

Gallon of Petrol 1.89

BOE Interest Rates Year End 10.88%

Yearly Inflation Rate UK 3.50%

Soviet Nuclear reactor at Chernobyl explodes

Soviet Nuclear reactor at Chernobyl explodes on April 26th causing release of radioactive material across much of Europe.

More Information for Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster

1. A nuclear power station in Chernobyl, Ukraine (which was still a part of the Soviet Union) exploded during April of 1986, causing a huge nuclear disaster.

2. Due to the explosion, large amounts of radiation and radioactive material was released into the local environment, effecting the health and safety of thousands of people including plant workers, clean-up workers, and the local population.

3. The explosion and resulting fire were caused by an experiment gone wrong, the presence of design flaws in the reactor, and a lack of safety oversight.

4. Hundreds of thousands of people were displaced by the disaster as the Soviet Union evacuated and closed off he surrounding area within 18 miles of the nuclear plant.

5. The explosion at Chernobyl not only damaged the surrounding environment with radiation, parts of Europe, notably Sweden and Finland, were also hit with contaminated dust and air from Chernobyl as it traveled through the atmosphere.

6. Eventually clean-up workers were able to contain the nuclear disaster by putting a concrete "sarcophagus" over the damaged reactor, but it was still thought to be somewhat unstable.

7. During the late 1990s to mid-2000s Europe and Ukraine worked together to create an even more permanent and stable cover to contain the radiation.

Space Shuttle Challenger

The Space Shuttle Challenger disintegrates 73 seconds after launching, killing all seven astronauts on board.

More Information for the Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster

1. The Space Shuttle Challenger is destroyed shortly after it launched during January of 1986.

2. The space shuttle was launching from Cape Canaveral in Florida and its mission was to bring seven astronauts into space including a teacher who had been specially chosen and trained to join the mission.

3. Tragically, all of the astronauts on board where killed in the explosion.

4. It was later discovered that O-rings on the rocket booster had been compromised in colder temperatures that were experienced in the days leading up to the launch.

5. The O-ring issue had caused the fuel tank to become damaged and the space shuttle to disintegrate.

6. Due to the disaster the Space Shuttle program was suspended for two years while the issue was investigated and safety features were improved.

7. The disaster was investigated by a special government commission which found that NASA had been warned about the potential design issues but chose not to act on the warnings.

Oprah Winfrey Show

The Oprah Winfrey Show debuts nationally.

More Information for Oprah Show

The Oprah Winfrey Show debuts nationally during September of 1986. The show had been a success with the local Chicago audience and rising host Oprah Winfrey soon signed a syndication deal. Her show soon became the highest-rated talk show in the U.S. and aired for 25 seasons, winning over 45 Daytime Emmy Awards. Using her show as a platform, Oprah became an influential figure in popular culture and is now ranked as one of the wealthiest and most powerful African-American women in the country. The Oprah Winfrey Show made over 4,500 episodes before it ended in 2011.

From our 1986 Toys Page

Lego Airport From The 1980s Lego Airport
Manufacturer: Lego
Price: $39.99

Children will stretch their imagination and explore the world around them with these plastic building blocks. Legoland airport set has runaway, two planes, and control tower.

From our 1980s Furniture Page

1985 Bean Bag Lounger

1985 Bean Bag Lounger

Price: $39.99

The bean bag lounger is great for sleeping or just relaxing. Comes in dark brown or autumn spice. Bean bags are double-stitched at stress points and are filled with expanded polystyrene beads.

1980s Ladies Dresses

1986 Peplum Bow Dress

From 1986 Peplum Bow Dress

Price: $49.99

Description : White bodice with inverted tucks of woven nylon whose peplum ends in a fishtail. Padded extended shoulders; self-fabric sash tied in a candy box bow. Back zipper close. Black slim skirt of woven nylon and acetate.

1980s Home Electrical

1985 Projection Screen TV

1985 Projection Screen TV

Price: $1279.00

This fifty-inch diagonal measure picture is handsomely styled in a cabinet that takes less than nine square feet of floor space. Lens system rejects dust and comb filter delivers a twenty-percent sharper picture than TVs without it. One-button color adjusts picture instantly. Touch remote tunes in up to 105 cable-compatible channels.

USSR -- First Goodwill Games

The first "Goodwill Games" are held in Moscow.

More Information for the Goodwill Games

The very first “Goodwill Games” were held in Moscow in July of 1986. Created by media mogul Ted Turner, the games were a multi-sport competition similar to the Olympics. There were a total of 3,000 athletes from 79 different countries who participated in the 182 events. At the end of the first games the Soviet Union had won the most medals with a total of 241 and the United States had the second most with 142. The Goodwill Games continued every 4 years until 2001 when they were ended.

Halley's Comet

Comet Halley reaches the closest point to the Earth, during its second visit to the solar system in the 20th century.

More Information for Halley's Comet

Several space probes fly-by Halley’s Comet in March of 1986. Just after Halley’s comet had its closest approach to Earth during the previous month multiple space probes belonging to various countries and their space agencies had their chance to observe the comet as it went past. The probes that encountered Halley’s comet during March included Japan’s Suisei and Sakigake, the Soviet Union’s Vega 1 and Vega 2, the European Space Agency’s Giotto, and NASA’s International Cometary Explorer, making up what was called “Halley’s Armada.” ESA’s Giotto became the first spacecraft to observe a comet up close, and it was the just under 600 kilometers away from the comet at its closest (the next closest probe in the Armada was about 8,000 kilometers away). All of the probes made important observations about Halley’s comet, taking different types of measurements and collecting data as it passed.

"Hands Across America"

The "Hands Across America" charity event is held.

More Information for Hands Across America.

The large public charity event “Hands Across America” is held during May of 1986. The publicity campaign asked Americans to join hands in a human chain across the country. Those who participated were asked for a ten dollar donation to get a place in the line. Approximately six and a half million people participated. The money raised from the donations was used to help people in poverty through local charities. The event was held by the same group of people that made USA for Africa.

Phantom of the Opera

The stage musical "Phantom of the Opera" debuts in London's West End.

More Information for Phantom of the Opera

1. Andrew Lloyd Webber’s stage musical adaptation of “The Phantom of the Opera” has its West End debut during October of 1986.

2. The musical proved to be incredibly popular and won Musical of the Year and Best Actor in a musical for lead Michael Crawford at that year’s Laurence Olivier Awards in London.

3. “The Phantom of the Opera” made its way to Broadway in 1988, where it would win several Tony Awards.

4. It has since become the second longest-running musical in the West End (behind Les Misérables) and the longest-running musical on Broadway.

5. It is estimated to have earned over $5 billion and been seen in 148 cities by over 130 million people.

Rutan Voyager

The experimental aircraft Rutan Voyager makes the first continuous non-stop flight around the world without refueling.

More Information and Timeline for the Rutan Voyager.

On December 23rd of 1986, the experimental aircraft Rutan Voyager became the first aircraft to fly a continuous non-stop round the world flight without refueling. The aircraft made of a lightweight graphite amd took about six years to construct. It was piloted by Dick Rutan and Jeana Yeager. The record-breaking around the world flight took nine days and they traveled a total of 25,012 miles. When they landed back at Edwards Air Force Base, the Rutan Voyager had only five gallons of fuel left in its tank.

First Studio Ghibli Film

The famous Studio Ghibli releases its first animated film during this year.

More Information for Studio Ghibli

1. The first Studio Ghibli film “Luputa: Castle in the Sky” was released during August of 1986.

2. The animated film was written and directed by the iconic Japanese film maker and Studio Ghibli co-founder, Hayao Miyazaki.

3. The film was re-released with some success in the U.S. in 2003 after having been released in limited forms previously.

4. “Castle in the Sky” was an impressive film for the new animation studio, winning several awards and ranking on many lists as one of the best animation films ever released.

5. Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli would go on to make several other popular films including “My Neighbor Totoro,” “Princess Monoke” and “Spirited Away.”

Mir space station

The Soviet Union launches the Mir space station.

More Information for the Mir Space Station

The Soviet Union launches the core unit of the Mir Space Station into Earth’s orbit in February of 1986. Mir was the largest space station ever created at that point in time and between 1987 and 1996 five expansion modules were added to the core unit. During the next month after its launch Mir became inhabitable and remained occupied by over one-hundred space travelers from twelve countries until June of 2000. After 14 years of service the Mir Space Station was abandoned by Russia and the defunct station returned to Earth in March of 2001 with a controlled re-entry.

Virgin Challenger II

Richard Branson on the 72 ft powerboat Virgin Challenger II breaks the world record for the fastest crossing of the Atlantic.

More Information for the Virgin Atlantic Challenger II

The Virgin Atlantic Challenger II powerboat broke the world record for the fastest crossing of the Atlantic Ocean during June of 1986. Manned by Richard Branson, the millionaire entrepreneur, the 72 foot boat was competing for the “Blue Riband” trophy and broke the record for fastest crossing of the Atlantic. However, the Hales’ Trustees who give out the award denied him the prize saying that he was disqualified for refueling twice during the trip and for the fact that his boat was not a commercial vessel. Despite this, it was still an accomplishment for Branson as he had attempted the 3,000 mile trip during 1985 but was unable to finish when his boat sank less than 150 miles away from the British coast.

Mad Cow Disease

More Information for Mad Cow Disease

The first case of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE), more commonly known as Mad Cow Disease, is found during November of 1986. The disease was identified at an agricultural lab in England. It was believed that the outbreak, which would go on to infect over 150,000 cows in Britain, began years earlier in 1984. Symptoms of BSE included a progressive deterioration of behavior and neurological functions, like an increase in aggression and an unsteady gait, leading to death. BSE was also linked to Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans who had consumed infected meat. Millions of cattle were culled to stop the epidemic, ending around 1998 in the UK.

Polar BEAR Satellite

More Information for Polar Beacon and Research Satellite

The Polar Beacon and Research Satellite was launched from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California during November of 1986. The mission, also known as Polar BEAR and STP P87-A, was a military operation with the objective of studying communication interference caused by solar flares and activity caused by the aurora borealis. The satellite weighed over 250 pounds and its body was made from a previously used Navy satellite. The satellite had been kept at the National Air and Space Museum for eight years before being taken back and launched with a new purpose. After its launch, it reached orbit successfully to begin gathering its data.

More News and Key Events From 1986

U.S. Smoking is banned on all public transport

Smoking is banned on all public transport including trains, planes, busses and coaches


Lethal gas from the volcanic Lake Nyos in Cameroon, West Africa kills 1,500

South Africa

The South African government censors reporters and the news media from reporting unrest throughout the country.

Orangemen Parades

Violence continues to escalate in Northern Ireland during the Orangemen Parades in Dumcree and Portadown with more innocents killed during the troubles.

Pan Am Flight 73

Pan Am Flight 73 with 358 people on board is hijacked at Karachi International Airport by four armed men

TWA Jet Bombing

Bomb Explodes on TWA Jet over Greece blowing hole in aircraft sucking 4 passengers out

Earthquake San Salvador

Earthquake measuring 7.5 on the Richter Scale strikes San Salvador, El Salvador, killing an estimated 1,500 people.

Iran-Contra Affair

Iran-Contra Affair President Ronald Reagan's administration sold arms to Iran, an avowed enemy. At the time, Americans were being held hostage in Lebanon by Hezbollah, a militant Shi'a organization loyal to Ayatollah Khomeini.

London Stock Exchange

The London Stock Exchange is deregulated allowing computerized share dealing ( The Big Bang )

Mike Tyson becomes the youngest Heavyweight Champion in history

South Africa

South African troops launch multiple raids on Zambia, Zimbabwe and Botswana

South Africa

175 Gold Miners Die in Kinross mine in the Eastern Transvaal, South Africa

US bombs Libya

US bombs Libya in protest at Libyan sponsorship of terrorist organizations involved in the bomb exploded in the crowded La Belle disco in Berlin, Germany.

US - USSR Arms Talks

Breakthrough in US - USSR Arms Talks between Reagan and Gorbachev leads to commitment to disarm thus ending a long period of instability caused by the Cold War

European Union

Spain and Portugal join the EEC

John McCarthy

John McCarthy, a British TV journalist, is kidnapped in the capital of Lebanon, Beirut.


British newspapers move to Wapping , East London in an attempt to break print union stranglehold over the newspaper industry


M25 circling London is completed

Russia - Perestroika

Gorbachev steps up reform programme in Russia introducing Perestroika ( restructuring ) and Glasnost ( openness )

Swedish Prime Minister Murdered

Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme Murdered February 28th

Loch Ness Monster ( Nessie )

A full survey is carried out of Loch Ness hoping to find proof that Nessie exists.( No Proof Found )

Wallis Simpson

The Duchess of Windsor, Wallis Simpson, is laid to rest alongside her husband King Edward VIII

Palestinian Uprising

A mass uprising by Palestinians against Israeli military occupation, begins in Jabalia refugee camp and spread to Gaza

Israel has Secret Nuclear Weapons

A british newspaper reveals information that Israel has Secret Nuclear Weapons including 100 nuclear war heads.


Micronesia Gains Independence From the United States

US tax reform legislation

US introduces sweeping tax reform legislation

1986 World Cup

Argentina Wins 1986 World Cup in Mexico

Popular Culture 1986

Popular Films

Top Gun

Crocodile Dundee


The Karate Kid, Part II

Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home


Ruthless People

The Color of Money

The Money Pit

Popular Musicians

Billy Joel

Robert Palmer

Lionel Richie

Van Halen

The Police

Debbie Harry

Simply Red

Whitney Houston with

" the greatest love of all "

The Pretenders


The Bangles with

" Walk Like and Egyption "

Chris de Burgh

Madonna with

" Papa Don't Preach "


Culture Club

Bruce Springsteen

Pet Shop Boys

Popular TV Programmes

Magnum, P.I.


Falcon Crest

Hill Street Blues

Cagney and Lacey



Family Ties

Remington Steele

The A-Team

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (UK)

Highway to Heaven

Murder, She Wrote

The Bill (UK)

The Cosby Show


Growing Pains


Only Fools and Horses (UK)

The Twilight Zone

Born This Year 1986

Emilia Clarke

Born October 23rd, London, United Kingdom

Lady Gaga

Born March 28th, New York, NY

Usain Bolt

Born August 21th, Jamaica

Rafael Nadal

Born June 3rd, Manacor, Spain


Born October 24th, Toronto, Canada

Richard Madden

Born June 18th, Elderslie, United Kingdom


The United Kingdom and France announce plans to construct the Channel Tunnel.

Space Shuttle Challenger disintegrates after launch, killing all on board

The Soviet Union launches the Mir space station

IBM unveils the PC Convertible, the first laptop computer.

British Surgeons perform the worlds first triple transplant ( Heart, Lung and Liver )

Internet Mail Access Protocol defined for e-mail transfer

The 386 series of microprocessor introduced by Intel.

Human Genome Project launched with the object to understand the human genome and therefore provide the continuing progress of medicine, It was announced in 2000 to be completed by Bill Clinton and Tony Blair

Inventions Invented by Inventors and Country ( or attributed to First Use )

High Temperature Superconductor Switzerland

Nicotene patch Frank Etscorn

Calendar For The Year 1986

1986 Calendar

Major World Political Leaders

Australia Prime Minister Bob Hawke
Brazil President José Sar ney
Canada Prime Minister Brian Mulroney
China Chairman of the People's Republic of China Li Xiannian
France President François Mitterrand
Germany Chancellor Helmut Kohl

India Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi
Italy Prime Minister Bettino Craxi
Japan Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone
Mexico President Miguel de la Madrid
Russia / Soviet Union General Secretary of the CPSU Mikhail Gorbachev
South Africa State President Pieter Willem Botha
United States President Ronald Reagan
United Kingdom Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher