Challenger Space Shuttle Risk Assessment (Extra Credit)
The multiple failures that led the disastrous events on the 28th of January, 1986 were inexcusable. The reason the Challenger Space Shuttle blew up 73 seconds after launch was the result of a faulty sealing system which allowed exhaust flames from the Solid-Fuel Rocket Boosters (SRB) to vent directly on the external tank, rupturing the tank and causing the explosion. There was excessive erosion on the O-ring in the booster field joints. The launch had also taken place in untested temperature conditions and in spite of serious warning on the part of the engineers of Thiokol, the company that manufactured the SRBs. One would think that all fingers point to the Thiokol in this case, however fault lies with NASA itself. Due to the enormous pressures politically and economic considerations, NASA had to launch multiple space shuttle missions in order to justify its budget with Congress. The president also wanted to give his state of the union address while the Challenger was in space. All of these different factors ultimately led to the demise of the Space Shuttle, Challenger along with 7 souls.
During this time in history, Risk Assessments were not part of NASA’s vocabulary. They had rooms full of scientist and mathematicians, but not one statistician. Decisions at NASA were being made by managers who had received degraded information while it was being sent up. After being notified by the Thiokol engineers that NASA should cancel the mission and wait for the newer O-Rings to be installed, which were currently in develop, NASA still pushed for it. However, the Roger Commission identified a breakdown in the communication as a contributing factor to the Challenger accident. Important information from the Thiokol engineers did not find its way to the appropriate people at NASA in charge of the mission. The engineers who built the SRBs had no direct line to the management at NASA. The management...
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