piclist 2002\08\19\184612a >
Thread: Space travel disasters
face picon face BY : Jinx email (remove spam text)

> Some times, I wonder if going with the lowest cost is in everyone's
> best interest.  I think I remember hearing that a rubber O-ring
> caused some space flight disaster (possibly the Challenger).  It was
> too cold to launch that day, and the washer became stiff, and didn't
> seal properly.

There was a Reel Life doco on TV here about a month ago on the
Challenger incident. There were interviews with all parties and on
the face of it seemed an honest and balanced program. If so, what
I took from the program were that there were two basic causes - one
mechanical and one political/PR.

The Morton Thiokol engineers (the proper ones, the guys like us who
have some conscience about the integrity of products they work on)
were hamstrung by lack of funds and management disinterest to
investigate the operating temperature range and disintegration of
the O-ring assembly. I really felt their frustration. The M-T engineering
management interviewed were vile and only now seem to be realising
the implications of appeasing NASA against the wishes of their
employees. The one who smiled all the way through his interview
could benefit from a good punch in the face, he was just so obnoxious

The other reason was that NASA was in a public interest slump, and the
inclusion of Christa McAuliffe (the teacher) would have regenerated
enthusiasm in what had become a very routine space program. The
bottom line was that a decision to launch was made on PR grounds
despite the very grave concerns M-T engineers had about safety


" The Commission has concluded that neither Thiokol nor NASA
responded adequately to internal warnings about the faulty seal
design. Furthermore, Thiokol and NASA did not make a timely
attempt to develop and verify a new seal after the initial design
was shown to be deficient.  Neither organization developed a
solution to the unexpected occurrences of O-ring erosion and
blow-by even though this problem was experienced frequently
during the Shuttle flight history. Instead, Thiokol and NASA
management came to accept erosion and blow-by as unavoidable
and an acceptable flight risk."

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