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On January 28, 1986, space shuttle Challenger exploded shortly after take-off, killing its entire crew, including Christa McAuliffe, the "first teacher in space." This disaster shocked the entire nation as well as the world, causing considerable public distrust of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). And from a financial standpoint, the explosion cost NASA over $2 billion.

Following the explosion, NASA launched a major investigation to determine why the shuttle exploded. In the end the investigation committee publicly concluded that the explosion was caused by failure of a motor pressure seal due to an unacceptable design sensitive to a number of factors. In actuality the committee found that the real cause for the Challenger disaster was a faulty decision process rooted in management.Paper Masters can compose a custom written research paper on Challenger that follows your guidelines.

The Challenger's Booster

The o-rings in the solid rocket boosters where the fault ultimately occurred were assembled by the Morton Thiokol Corporation. Morton Thiokol had discovered prior to the Challenger launch that these o-rings could potentially fail based on a historical study of joints from other shuttle flights and additional testing on the joints. A series of meetings were held prior to the launch to discuss the issue. Unfortunately, managerial responsibility for the shuttle was divided into three separate groups. Because each of these groups had to be involved in the decision-making process, the issue was overlooked to a certain degree because not all of the groups were involved in these pre-flight meetings. In fact, the responsibility of key individuals from these groups at these meetings was to contact other key individuals from the non-represented groups; however, the attending individuals failed to do so.

The Challenger's Launch Date

Thiokol Wasatch's senior scientist presented all of the fault data directly in the fifth meeting and strongly opposed the shuttle launch because the conditions of the launch were outside of the area for which the organization had collected any data at that point. The fact that the target launch date was in January when the temperatures were expected to be below freezing meant that the o-rings could potentially freeze and fail to seal following launch. Furthermore, Thiokol Wasatch believed that historical data indicated that cold weather had created problems with the o-ring in prior shuttle flights. The NASA attendees at this final meeting argued that similar problems had been seen in a shuttle launch at higher temperatures, so NASA concluded that Thiokol Wasatch must be wrong.

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