Free «Space Shuttle Challenger Accident» Essay Sample

Executive summary

Necessity is branded as the mother of inventions. The Space Shuttle was launched to help explore the space. This paper will analyze the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster that occurred immediately after its launch. It will give an account of events as they happened. Solutions will be offered at the end of this analysis.


Space Shuttle Challenger was a second space shuttle obiter developed by NASA. The shuttle completed approximately nine missions before crashing on the 73rd second after the launch. The disaster of Space Shuttle Challenger occurred over the Atlantic Ocean in the United States. This crash resulted to the death of seven people and it became the first shuttle to be destroyed. NASA contracted Morton Thiokol Inc. to engineer the solid rocket booster used in the space shuttle.

Summary of the case

NASA contracted Morton Thiokol to engineer a solid rocket booster based on the design of Air Force Titan III (Wikipedia, 2012). It steel case was divided into segments joined and sealed by O-rings made of rubber. There was a second O-ring added to every joint to act as a back-up in case the first O-ring failed. In 1977, unexpected joint rotation was discovered. It had decompressed the O-rings making them unable to seal the joints. A review commission reported that the second O-ring would provide redundancy should joint failure occur. NASA nullified the idea of failure by insisting that the rings embodied a safety factor.

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In 1986, the prediction by weather forecasters showed unusual cold conditions for Florida. Thiokol engineers raised concern that during cold temperatures, the O-rings harden and fail to seal the joints properly. It is at this time that Roger Boisjoly was consulted. He was expected to show evidence that O-ring damage was connected to cold temperatures. Although Boisjoly lacked facts to quantify his argument, he did not recommend for the shuttle launch at that temperature. After analyzing their thoughts on Thiokol’s recommendations, they agreed to go ahead with the launch. The Space Shuttle Challenger was launched the following morning. After 73 seconds, the shuttle exploded and killed everybody on board (Choo, 2006).

Analysis of what went wrong

The Challenger disaster was caused by an organizational and social misconduct that originated from taking aspects for granted. The information from engineers portrayed potential danger ahead, but was reinterpreted to mean an acceptable joint performance. As a result, NASA officially, announced it within acceptable risk. The deviance and reinterpretation was fuelled by three factors. One of them was the culture of production maintained by the Shuttle Rocket Booster (SRB) work group. The second factor was the culture of production. This was portrayed by the engineering bodies and consisted of institutionalized beliefs. The third one was structural secrecy. This prevented all the stakeholders from knowing the details of the O-ring problem. The decision to launch the Challenger was rule-based one. The cultural considerations that used to work previously such as rules, procedures, understandings, and norms did not work at the time of the launch. Logically, it can’t be concluded that the violation of rules done by managers caused the tragedy. It was moral conformity.


The process of Space Shuttle launch was a matter of life and death to the astronauts. This should have influenced the final decision. The engineers would have been allowed to find a viable solution to manage the situation between O-ring and the temperatures. Alternatively, the Space launch should have been delayed until the temperatures became favourable. Safety should have taken precedent in the management’s decision making. Before branding the effect of cold temperature on O-rings as an acceptable risk, consultation should have been held with the engineers.


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