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Challenger Disaster: The Challenger Tragedy Was As Much A Failure Of Decision Making As Of Technology.

1386 words - 6 pages

The Challenger tragedy was as much a failure of decision-making as of technology. The determination to launch was made under so much emotional pressure that standard measures of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration were avoided, and the objections of specialists and engineers were either overruled or kept from main decision-makers. The pressures on NASA were forceful and diverse. They included the need to lock Congressional financial support through demonstrations of cost-effectiveness and efficiency, the forceful public interest in the heavily publicized "Teacher in Space" program, and the wish to demonstrate the potential of the NASA technology. All of these put a lot of pressure on NASA decision-makers who were stuck on a set of ideas and became largely defensive to obvious facts. NASA's rush to launch in the face of engineering objections is, in the view of some, typical of American corporate behavior.On the day of the disaster, Brenda Clayton was sitting at home taking care of her young children. She can recall watching the shuttle explode over and over again in her head. Having young children, the first thing she thought of was the families of the astronauts. After a few days she heard of the cause of the explosion. She thought to herself that why did they not just delay the launch. Then she realized we live in a country that sometimes looks ahead to early. We see the goal and do anything to get it done. "Whether it's flying in space or performing business transactions, America's decision-making process needs lots of work." (Clayton Personal Interview)Some call this psychological obligation to a decision "freezing." It abbreviates the information-search segment of the decision-making method, during which an individual aggressively thinks of all available options before making a final decision. Certain informational and motivational circumstances influence the tendency to freeze at a particular split second. People are more likely to stick with a decision, for example, if they don't know that the judgment could be incorrect. In the case of Challenger, the compromised thought process at NASA kept information, such as the existence of cold spots on a booster rocket, from being passed on to the responsible officials, making it easier for them to freeze their obligation to launch.The inspired forces behind freezing are more complicated than the informational ones and help make clear why decisions are sometimes made in spite of abundant opposing information. There are three such forces: the need for a positive ending, the need for associated structure, and the fear of failing.People often take on wishful thinking, thinking what they find easy or popular. This trend supports freezing on an attractive decision. In the Challenger case, lift-off was clearly more desirable than delay. A launch decision meant that the flight schedule could be kept, that the public would not be disappointed and that the shuttle program would score major...

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