The Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster Essay

1298 words - 5 pages

On January 28, 1986 the Space Shuttle Challenger destined for space came to a crashing halt after just 73 seconds into liftoff. What would the first thought of any normal person be? Why? What went wrong? All seven crew members aboard The Challenger perished. While the physical cause of the Challenger is now known as the failure of mechanics, the Report of the Presidential Commission on the Space Shuttle Challenger Accident revealed that the primary cause of the disaster was “flaws in the decision making process” (Hughes, 66).
After finding that the O-rings were the mechanical causes of the disaster, the Commission examined all the available data, did multiple tests and experiments by “NASA, civilian contractors, and various government agencies” (Lewis). While it was discovered that there was a gas leak in the right Solid Rocket Motor aft field joint, it was determined that no sabotage had occurred. 24 hours prior to the actual launch, there were concerns of the very cold temperatures and the accumulation of ice on the launch pad (Esser,Lindoerfer 170). These concerns were brought up in a variety of meeting, and teleconferences involving NASA management and engineers. It was also discovered that there might be a seal leakage during previous flights. The issue with the O-rings was that they could not withstand the cold. The O-ring could not return to its normal shape because of the cold temperatures. It was “probable the O-ring would not be pressure actuated to seal the gap in time to preclude joint failure due to blow-by and erosion from hot combustion gases” (Lewis). As the shuttle increased upwards, there were puffs of black smoke suggested that the “grease, joint insulation and rubber O-rings in the joint seal were being burned and eroded by the hot propellant gases” (Lewis). The disaster of the Challenger could have been avoided if more proper tests would have been conducted. There were previous successes even with damage to the O-rings, but they never resulted in any sort of damage to the shuttle or to the crew. This caused the illusion of overconfidence. That is the issue with humanity, mistakes happen and we must learn and grow from them; sometimes even at the expense of seven innocent crew members. Humans often make errors that they are either too afraid to acknowledge or are unaware that they are occurring. The issue is that, in this case, there were known malfunctions and the people in charge allowed the launch to occur without first double checking the issues at hand.
There were three groups in which decisions were to be made: the United States government, Morton Thiokol engineers, and NASA. The way that NASA was founded, it was structured so that there were four levels of management. Level 1 was the Associate Administrator for Space Flight, they were in charge of overseeing policy, the budget for space flights, and all matters technical. Level 2 was the Manager of the National Space Transportation program and was responsible...

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