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The Challenger

Essay by   •  February 18, 2011  •  Essay  •  801 Words (4 Pages)  •  853 Views

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On January 28, 1986, seven astronauts were killed when the space shuttle they were piloting, the Challenger, exploded just over a minute into the flight. The failure of the solid rocket booster O-rings to seat properly allowed hot combustion gases to leak from the side of the booster and burn through the external fuel tank. The failure of the O-ring was attributed to several factors, including faulty design of the solid rocket boosters, insufficient low- temperature testing of the O-ring material and the joints that the O-ring sealed, and lack of proper communication between different levels of NASA management. Communication is a process by which information is exchanged between or among individuals through a common system of symbols, signs, and behavior. Communication plays a big role in today's society. The Engineers were aware of the problem with the O-rings, but the way they present was not convincing to the higher managers for them to cancel the launch. Communication is very important for big technical projects, because any breakdown of any communication will affect the whole aspect of the project. For example, at my workplace we stay current with a lot of information that affect customers as for as their Satellite TV is concern. If at any point you do not look at that information that benefits the customer, there is a chain that you break that is very huge. First it's the customer, then your company.

Besides the obvious physical cause of the Challenger accident, there was also a contributing factor: communication. The decision to launch the Challenger was flawed. Those who made that decision were unaware of the recent history of problems concerning the O-rings and the joint. They were also unaware of the written recommendation of the contractor (Thiokol) advising against the launch at temperatures below 53 degrees Fahrenheit and the opposition of the engineers at Thiokol after NASA management insisted on Challenger to launch. They also did not have a clear understanding of Thiokol's concern that it was not safe to launch because of ice on the launching pad. If the decision makers had known all of the facts, it is unlikely that they would have decided to launch mission 51-L on January 28, 1986. This poses a huge communication breakdown between Thiokol engineers, NASA management, and employees of both parties. Had all of the events leading up to liftoff been clearly communicated and emphasized in the flight readiness process and Thiokol engineers taken seriously, this disaster would have never taken place. There is no way that NASA management and safety leaders should ever let such serious concerns be ignored. It is troubling to find that both Thiokol and NASA containing potentially serious problems and attempting to resolve them internally instead of communicating them forward. It is also very troubling that Thiokol



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