Space Shuttle Challenger Explosion Essay Research Paper
Space Shuttle Challenger Explosion Essay, Research Paper
7 December 1999
The Challenger Space Shuttle Disaster
The forenoon was clear, bright, and cold on January 28th, 1986, in Cape Canaveral,
Florida. The skies were clear leting the Sun to reflect over the launch country at the
Kennedy Space Center and effort to increase its freezing temperature. On launch tablet
39B icicles dangled from the launch tower, tablet construction, and other launch equipment
( Lewis 127 ) as the infinite bird Challenger stood in a powerful perpendicular silhouette against
the forenoon visible radiation. The bird, solid projectile supporters, and external armored combat vehicle had been on the
tablet for 38 yearss, and in that continuance seven inches of rain had fallen doing the
ice build-up ( Mahal ) . Assorted undertaking members for mission 51-L carried out their responsibilities at
the launch site fixing for the defect of the 10th flight of the satellite, Challenger.
Buss unloaded partners, kids, and parents of the bird crew at the VIP
observation site three and a half stat mis off from the launch tablet ( Lewis 1 ) . This new site,
closer than usual, gave household, friends, and imperativeness a greater sense of engagement in the
launch. Positioned as they were between the imperativeness grandstand, web telecasting
platforms, and looming stockade of the vehicle assembly edifice and launch control
centre ( McConnell 136 ) , all peoples? senses awaited the 11:38 a.m. ET lift-off with
expectancy. It was launch twenty-four hours at the Kennedy Space Center.
After five yearss of hold filled with air current, rain, and defeat, Challenger was
eventually ready to travel on mission 51-L, the 25th mission for the universe? s foremost fleet of
reclaimable manned starships ( Lewis 1 ) . Public involvement in the flight had been focused by a
strong public-relations flood tide on the first private citizen to wing on board a infinite bird.
Sharon Christa McAuliffe, age 37, was a high school instructor who had been selected
through the National Aeronautics and Space Administration? s ( NASA ) sweepstakes from
more than 11,000 appliers ( The Crew? ) to be the first instructor in infinite. Her
assignment was to show and explicate the effects of microgravity in the context of
Newtonian natural philosophies and the scientific, commercial, and industrial applications of infinite
flight. She so was to turn to an audience of schoolchildren via telecasting from the
ballistic capsule ( Lewis 1 ) . The presence of this personable and attractive immature adult female added
a new dimension to the populace? s perceptual experience of the infinite plan. Space flight in America
was no longer merely the sole rights of spacemans, scientists, and applied scientists, but an
experience shared by the whole society. Christa made Challenger flight 51-L the most
publicized flight since the Apollo undertaking over a decennary earlier.
Other crew members included spacecraft commanding officer Francis R. ( Dick ) Scobee,
pilot Michael J. Smith, mission specializers Judith A. Resnik, Ronald E. McNair, and
Ellison S. Onizuka, and warhead specializer Gregory B. Jarvis. Scobee was a Rival
veteran who flew its 5th orbital flight in 1984. Smith was selected as a NASA spaceman
in 1980 and was doing his first infinite mission flight. Resnik, one of three mission
specializers on Challenger, became the 2nd American adult female to revolve during the flight of
Discovery STS-41-D. McNair was one of the first three Black Americans to come in the
spaceman cell, and the 2nd Black American in infinite in 1984 on the Challenger
STS-41-B. Onizuka, winging as a mission specializer on STS-51-C, was doing his 2nd
shuttle mission. Jarvis, like McAuliffe & # 8211 ; non a federal authorities employee, was made
available for the Challenger flight by his company Hughes Aircraft, Space, and
Communicationss Group. His responsibilities on the Challenger involved garnering new information
on the design of liquid-fueled projectiles ( The Crew? ) .
On top of McAuliffe? s? dream come true? to attach to the Challenger mission,
the remainder of the crew? s diverseness led to even more public entreaty: there were two
adult females & # 8211 ; one an ordinary citizen, a Black American adult male McNair, a Hawaiian indigen Born
to Japanese-American parents Onizuka, and two members of the crew who were non
federal employees ( The Crew? ) . The coverage of this mission was particular for the media
before it of all time became tragic.
January 28th, 1986, was the coldest twenty-four hours that NASA had of all time attempted to establish
a manned ballistic capsule. In fact, at 36 grades Fahrenheit, it was 15 grades colder than any
old launch temperature ( Mahal ) . Although lift-off clip for the Challenger flight 51-L
had been delayed twice that forenoon, all operations and systems seemed to be under
control. An? ice? squad had been sent to the launch tablet at 1:30 ante meridiem and once more at 8:45 a.m.
and although there was some build-up, ice was cleared as a concern. Other conditions
conditions were cleared by NASA staff over Cape Canaveral through the usage of conditions
balloons and besides over the exigency set downing site in Dakar, Senegal ( Lewis 5 ) .
The seven member crew arrived at the launch tablet in the spacemans? new wave shortly
after 8 and were all strapped into their seats by 8:36 a.m. The big audience gathered at
the VIP observation site, excepting household and imperativeness, represented NASA? s pride of their
unique? orbital schoolroom? mission. NASA functionaries invited 100s of invitees to see the
launch of 51-L, including McAuliffe? s 3rd grade category from Kimball Elementary School
( McConnell 247 ) . Educators, corporate patrons of the Young Astronauts Council,
members of the Michigan Republican party organisation, president, members of the
Teacher Astronaut Selection Panel, and a deputation from the People? s Republic of China
were besides invitees ( Lewis 3 ) . So, with all eyes watching, this is a first-hand experience from
the spacemans? households:
? ? Three, two, one? ? [ stated mission control ] . ? Roger. Travel with the accelerator up, ?
shuttle commanding officer Dick Scobee radioed? His girl Kathie, 25, huddled with
her female parent, brother and infant boy on a roof at Cape Canaveral, along with the
assembled households of the six other Challenger spacemans about to blare into infinite.
She felt the rumbling of liftoff and hugged her babe closer in the cold. ? Wow, expression
how reasonably, ? she said 74 seconds subsequently. ? Is that normal? ? person else in the
crowd asked. ? They? re gone, ? said Jane, married woman of pilot Michael Smith. ? What do
you mean, Mom? ? asked her boy. ? They? rhenium lost, ? she replied. All over the state,
the 1000000s watching that atrocious bloom spread across their telecasting screens
realized that something had gone incorrect before they heard the voice of mission
control: ? Obviously? a major malfunction. ? ?
( Toss offing )
As schoolchildren everyplace gazed skyward, what Christa had promised would
be? the ultimate field trip? ( Toss offing ) ended in catastrophe. The households were jostled off the
roof, down lifts, and into coachs. Still dazed, Kathie clung to the babe Justin and eyed
the NASA staff. ? The expressions on their faces told me that something was truly, perfectly,
awfully incorrect, ? she recalls. The households waited for intelligence in the crew? s quarters.
Christa? s hubby Steve McAuliffe, with Scott, 9, and Caroline, 6, sat in Christa? s residence hall
room. ? This is non how it? s supposed to be, ? he whispered ( Toss offing ) .
Rather than presenting the State of the Union reference that flushing as scheduled,
President Ronald Reagan made a brief address. ? We? ll go on our quest in infinite, ? he
promised traumatized Americans. ? There will be more shuttle flights and more birds
crews and, yes, more voluntaries, more civilians, more instructors in infinite? ( Toss offing ) .
There would be no shuttle flights for about three old ages. There would be no instructor in
infinite, and for those left on the land, for the households of seven deceased spacemans,
there would be old ages of resentment, heartache and choler, and hurting before their lives could eventually
What went incorrect? What really happened to do a seasoned infinite bird such
as Challenger to dysfunction on its ten percent run?
Challenger exploded 73 seconds after launch. At 0.68 seconds after ignition,
videotape showed black fume coming from the bottom field articulation of the right solid projectile
supporter ( SRB ) . The SRB comes in four sections that are assembled. The bottom field
articulation is the lower articulation on the SRB. The black fume suggested that lubricating oil, articulation
insularity, and rubber O-rings were being burned. The fume continued to come from the
bottom field articulation confronting the exterior armored combat vehicle in rhythms of three whiffs of fume per second.
The last whiff of fume was seen at 2.7 seconds. The black fume was an indicant that
the bottom field articulation was non sealing right ( Mahal ) .
At 58.8 seconds into flight, on enhanced movie, a fire was seen coming from the
right SRB. The fire was coming from the bottom of the bottom articulation. It was firing
gas that was get awaying from the SRB. A fraction of a 2nd subsequently, at 59.3 seconds, the
fire was good defined and could be seen without enhanced movie. As the fire increased
in size, it had begun to force against the external armored combat vehicle due to the hotfooting air around the
satellite ( Mahal ) .
The SRB is attached to the external armored combat vehicle by a series of prances that run aboard the
external armored combat vehicle. One of these prances is located at 310 grades of the perimeter of the
SRB. As the fire grew, it pushed against this prance with an intense heat of about
5,600 grades Fahrenheit, doing it hot and weak. The first sight that the fire was
hitting the external armored combat vehicle was at 64.7 seconds, when the colour of the fire changed. Color
alteration indicated that the fire was being produced through blending with another substance.
This other substance was liquid H, which is stored in the bottom external armored combat vehicle.
Pressure alterations from the H armored combat vehicle confirmed that there was a leak ( Mahal ) .
At 72 seconds at that place was a sudden concatenation of events that destroyed Challenger and
the seven crew members on board. By now, the lower prance linking the right SRB to
the external armored combat vehicle was highly hot and really weak. With the sum of force given by
the SRB, the lower prance broke off from both the right SRB and the external armored combat vehicle,
leting the right SRB to revolve freely around the top prances. The underside of the SRB
swung around striking, denting, and firing Challenger & # 8217 ; s wing. There was an utmost
force that shot the H armored combat vehicle frontward into the O armored combat vehicle doing them to split. At
73.12 seconds into flight, a white vapour was seen from the bottom corner of the right
SRB. The white vapour was the mixture of H and O. Merely milliseconds after
the white vapour was seen, at 73.14 seconds, the freshness turned into a bolide in a immense
detonation. The chief detonation was the H and O that came from the external
armored combat vehicle. Challenger was going at a velocity of Mach 1.92 at a tallness of 46,000 pess when it
blew up. The last recorded transmittal from Challenger was at 73.62 seconds after
launch ( Mahal ) . Michael Smith was recorded as stating, ? Uhh Ohio? ( Lewis 16 ) !
Six yearss subsequently, President Reagan, who was moved and troubled by the atrocious
accident of mission 51-L, appointed an independent committee made up of individuals non
connected with the mission to look into it. The intent of the committee was to: ? 1 )
Review the fortunes environing the accident to set up the likely cause or
causes of the accident ; and 2 ) Develop recommendations for restorative or other action
based upon the committee? s findings and findings? ( Haggerty foreword ) . The
committee was headed by Chairman, William P. Rogers, a former secretary of province
under President Nixon and former lawyer general under president Eisenhower. Thus,
the fact-finding party became known as the? Rogers? Commission. Other selected
individuals included Vice-Chairman, Neil Armstrong, a old NASA spaceman and federal
employee, every bit good as Sally Ride. The balance of the committee was made up of David
Acheson, Eugene Covert, Richard Feyman, Robert Hotz, Donald Kutyna, Robert
Rummel, Joseph Sutter, Arthur Walker Jr. , Albert Wheelon, Charles Yeager, and Alton
Keel Jr. ( Haggerty committee ) .
Immediately after being appointed, the Rogers Commission moved frontward in its
probe with the full support of the White House. Although they held public hearings
covering with the facts taking up to the accident, they felt the manner to cover with a failure of
this magnitude was to unwrap all the facts to the full and openly. The committee took
immediate stairss to rectify errors that led to the failure and helped to regenerate assurance
and finding within NASA, in the eyes of the populace every bit good as NASA itself. The
probe? s chief aim was non needfully to indicate fingers, but to see
assurance in NASA? s system for the public and work forces and adult females who fly the birds. It
focused its attending on the safety facets of future flights based on lessons learned from
the appraisal, with the purpose being to return to safe infinite flight. ( Haggerty foreword ) .
At first, NASA seemed to be keep backing information about the accident from the
public, imperativeness, and Rogers Commission. The imperativeness was declaring it a intelligence? blackout? by
NASA. A twenty-four hours subsequently, in response to a inquiry posed by Jay Barbree of NBC wireless, Jesse
Moore, associate decision maker of The Office of Space Flight, replied, ? I have non gotten a
briefing, Jay, on what the recovery squad has found at this point in clip. ? I have fundamentally
looked at the NASA select exposures and so away, as you did, and all I can state is that it
appeared from those exposures that there was an detonation. ? that? s about all I can state at
this point in clip? ( Lewis 27 ) . Approximately two hebdomads following the calamity, the
Rogers Commission was able to reassure the populace that the full narrative was being told in an
orderly and thorough mode.
The consensus of the Rogers Commission and other take parting fact-finding
bureaus is that the loss of the infinite bird Challenger was caused by a failure in a joint
between the two lower sections of the right solid projectile supporter ( Haggerty 4 ) . The solid
projectile supporter & # 8217 ; s sections are joined together by a nip and clevis articulation. Each section has
a nip on the underside and a clevis on top. The clevis is the female connection, while the
nip is the male linking constituent. The bottom-mid section connects to the underside
section with a nose. Where this occurs is called the bottom field articulation. There are two
? washers? called O-rings that wr
ap around the clevis and seal the joint, every bit good as a Zn
chromate putty that is stuck in the joint. The bottom field articulation is the joint that failed on
the right solid projectile supporter ( Mahal ) .
There were a few causes that could hold lead to the joint seal failure: 1 ) Damage
or taint could hold occurred during the assembly. 2 ) The spread between the
articulations had grown as a consequence of anterior usage of the solid projectile motors. 3 ) The temperature
on the twenty-four hours of the launch was 36 grades ; the temperature of the bottom right field articulation
was 28 grades at launch clip. 4 ) The public presentation of the putty ( zinc chromate ) that was
applied to the joint ( Mahal ) . 5 ) Overall building of field articulations made by Morton
Thiokol, the company that produces the SRBs for NASA. The consequences included a
combination of these possible causes.
Although a serious concern, harm and/or taint of the field articulations at the
clip of assembly was ruled out as a conducive component of flight 51-L? s malfunction by
the Rogers Commission. Records showed that the sections were assembled utilizing
approved processs. Significant out-of-round conditions existed between the two
sections joined at the bottom right field articulation. This caused a spread concern during
assembly, but trial records show that the spread was in the acceptable scope of mistake
( Haggerty 4 ) .
Temperature was a cardinal factor involved in failure of the field joint seal. On the
forenoon of the launch, the coldest articulations were the bottom field articulations of the right SRB.
Recall, that the temperature of that field articulation was 28 grades F. The temperature of the
opposite side was about 50 grades F. When the O-rings are cold, they are really
stiff and make non travel every bit rapidly as they should. Out of 21 launches with
temperatures of 61 grades F or greater, merely four showed marks of O-ring thermal
hurt. Each of the launches below 61 grades resulted in one or more O-rings demoing
marks of eroding of blow-by and carbon black ( Haggerty 4 ) . Trials were done to see how fast
O-rings seal at different temperatures. At 75 grades F the O-rings seal within 530
msecs. On the opposite side of the graduated table an O-ring at 20 grades F takes 1.9
seconds to seal ( Mahal ) . It is this difference in clip that most probably caused the detonation
of the Challenger.
The public presentation of the putty is another likely cause of the joint seal failure.
The Zn chromate putty is placed on the interior of the articulations and besides forced between the
spread of the nip and clevis during assembly. It is at that place to halt burning of hot gas from
making the O-rings. The hot gases can do holes in the putty, therefore allowing gas travel
through to the O-rings which could do harm ( Mahal ) . Prior to the 10th launch of
the Challenger, the company that had been bring forthing the putty for the SRB articulations went
out of concern. Putty had to be obtained from a new beginning and post-testing showed that
it was more susceptible to environmental effects ; wet made it tackier ( Lewis 83 ) .
Due to the launch temperature being really important, the Rogers Commission took this
happening into history as a conducive factor.
The Rogers Commission found that the failure was due to a faulty design
intolerably sensitive to a figure of factors ( reusability, putty and O-ring public presentation in
inauspicious temperatures ) . The fact-finding party concluded that the company bring forthing the
O-rings, Morton Thiokol, and NASA were guilty of leting an evitable accident to
occur ( Toss offing ) . This accident was deemed evitable through research done on both
companies? applied scientists, prior memorandums sent between the companies and section
caputs, and events that took topographic point on the Eve of flight 51-L.
On July 31st, 1985, Roger Boisjoly, Staff Engineer in applied mechanics at Morton
Thiokol, sent a memo to Robert Lund, Thiokol? s Vice President of Engineering, pressing
that Thiokol? s unofficial undertaking force originally? said? to be assigned to the field articulation
job officially be pulled from their regular responsibilities and really assigned to the job.
The memo concluded, ? It is my [ Roger Boisjoly ] honest and existent fright that if we do non
take immediate action to give a squad to work out the job with the field articulation holding
the figure one precedence, so we stand in hazard of losing a flight along with all the
launch tablet installations? ( Vaughan 448 ) .
Prior to this undertaking force petition? eight old ages prior, NASA and Morton Thiokol
both new that the solid projectile supporters were ill designed. In that period of clip
about every launch had been recorded as holding some type of eroding with the ill-famed
O-rings. When Roger Boisjoly voiced his concern, about a twelvemonth and a half before the
launch of the Challenger, the section heads coolly assured him that it was being
worked on. A message sent in August of 1985 from the undertaking applied scientist recognized the
job, stated that long term solutions looked good, and simple short term steps
should be taken to? cut down flight hazards? ( Vaughan 449 ) . The long term solutions were
projected to necessitate several old ages. Shuttlecocks had already been at hazard, and for the clip
being would stay at hazard.
The dark before the fatal launch, a figure of applied scientists voiced their concerns.
Roger Boisjoly and others advised that a launch temperature of 53 grades Fahrenheit was
crucial for proper operation of the field articulations? O-rings ( Vaughan 338 ) . Chief executives
and caputs argued with irony inquiring the applied scientists why they thought 53 was the thaumaturgy
figure? The Rogers Commission subsequently found that head executives of Morton Thiokol
were in understanding with the lower degree research applied scientists until they found out that NASA
was sing other companies to construct the projectile supporters. Not desiring to lose their
biggest client, Thiokol caputs changed theirs minds a few yearss before the 28th to move in the
? best involvements? of the house & # 8211 ; to travel a caput with the launch ( Vaughan 337 ) . This provided
an even tougher challenge for Boisjoly and company to alter anyone? s head on the
launch Eve. He subsequently states, ? This was a meeting where the finding was to establish,
and it was up to us to turn out beyond a shadow of a uncertainty that it was non safe to make so.
This is in entire contrary to what the place normally is in a preflight conversation or a flight
preparedness reappraisal? ( Vaughan 338 ) .
The applied scientists were ignored. No one went to the imperativeness or a member of Congress.
No 1 tried to make the spacemans and inform them of the hazards they were taking if they
launched the following forenoon. High-level applied scientists told NASA what it wanted to hear,
and low-level applied scientists held their breath and went back to work. These were the grounds
the Rogers Commission found NASA and Thiokol guilty of an? evitable? accident.
NASA? s haste to establish despite technology expostulations is typical of American
corporate behaviour. Although NASA is a authorities bureau, non a concern, by seeking to
do the bird commercially practical, NASA subjected its operations to concern
considerations about from the beginning. Furthermore, the bureau is basically a
coordinator of the work of a big figure of private corporations, where most of the
applied scientists and technicians that were at inquiry were employed.
The shuttle detonation is merely? another illustration of the acceleration debasement of
the position of the applied scientist in the American corporation, ? says Ralph Nadar, a chemical
applied scientist at Union Carbide ( Lindorff 880 ) . The net income motivation for the companies seemed to
be overruling technology concerns at precisely the clip when the applied scientist? s positions were
crucially of import. What happened at NASA and Morton Thiokol is a utile lesson for
corporations: non merely were the applied scientists overruled by the direction, they were so
afraid of revenge that they didn? T travel outside the concatenation of bid. Other than honest
ethical patterns, they had a ground to be. Thiokol? s first reaction to the catastrophe was to
punish Roger Boisjoly and Allan McDonald, Director of Solid Rocket Motors. These two
were the chief perpetrators of showing the beliing launch grounds on the dark before
the launch and besides the applied scientists who testified entirely before the Presidential
Commission. For this, Thiokol decided to penalize them by transfering them and cut downing
their duties ( Lindorff 880 ) .
Intimidation plays a immense function in corporate America. When a? whistle blower, ? a
lone cat doing noise ( Lindorff 881 ) , raises a ailment, the most simple option for
the company is dismissal. The deficiency of single protection, particularly for applied scientists, is
doing a decaying hole in the codification of moralss. Boisjoly and McDonald knew precisely why
they felt the launch of the Challenger should hold been delayed once more, but after being shooting
down and close out by upper degree direction that dark, they turned off with their
fingers crossed and accepted their effort as good plenty, fearful of who else to turn to.
By noon the following twenty-four hours, the applied scientists had 2nd ideas on allowing effects usher
their ethical determinations.
A quotation mark by Seymour Melman, an industrial applied scientist at Columbia University, from
Lindorff? s article depicts merely how awful unacted upon ethical determinations can be in
? ? In the Soviet Union it? s called democratic centralism? you argue and argument
until the leading reaches a determination, and so you shut up and travel along. Here
in the United States it? s merely called seting on your direction cap. In the terminal,
they? re the same thing. The lone difference is that here [ in America ] , after a
catastrophe, you learn about it because we have a tradition of independent
establishments, like The New York Times or National Public Radio. ?
( 880 )
On January 28th, 1986, the independent establishments surely did non neglect the
state. Live national imperativeness coverage let even the most rural communities join in and experience
like portion of the event. Somehow NASA and Christa McAuliffe had created something so
wonderful that it joined the American people as if there was an unseeable flow of keeping
custodies countrywide. NASA was an impenetrable world power and it made the people feel
If you asked me personally where I was in the late forenoon on that twenty-four hours of January,
I could state you really explicitly. My full 3rd class category at Sandoz Elementary School
had been given the privilege to watch the launch with other categories in the library. We had
been covering the Challenger mission for hebdomads in category, fixing for the day of the month with
expectancy. Merely prior to our tiffin and recess period we all sat Indian-style on the floor
waiting for the minute softly. As I watched the shuttle ascend and disappear, detonating
in the fume, denial set in. I thought I had missed something, or the station was demoing
footage of a old catastrophe. Realization of the truth didn? T set in until subsequently when our
instructor had the unsettling undertaking of explicating to the category what really did happened.
A survey conducted in 1993 published in Change magazine by Arthur Levine,
revealed some interesting positions of college pupils of that coevals. Twenty-eight
collegiate establishments were visited by Levine and other co-workers, where they met with
eight to ten pupils per establishment. The inquiry posed was, what societal and political
events had most influenced their coevals? Five common replies were given. The
most frequent reply was the Challenger detonation. It seemed that one time one pupil
mentioned it, other members of the group would get down by agitating their caputs in
understanding and so go on discoursing about it in an unfastened treatment. Levine provinces, ? It
was the equivalent of the Kennedy blackwash for this generation. ? All the pupils
knew where they had been when they heard the intelligence ; most had watched it on telecasting in
school. Some had been scheduled to hold the teacher-astronaut Christa McAuliffe Teach
them from infinite. As pupils talked about their first shared generational calamity in the
sense that it shattered both their idealism and their feeling of security, Levine remembers
some of their quotation marks: ? I ever thought NASA was perfect. ? ? There were smashed
dreams because of it. ? ? My hopes were in it. There was an Asiatic, a Black, and two
women. ? Levine concludes by recognizing that the relationship between Christa McAuliffe
and this coevals felt so personal to them, that for many it was their first coppice with
decease ( 10-11 ) .
As NASA looks to the hereafter, happening ways to travel higher, faster, and further, the
calamity of mission 51-L will ne’er be forgotten. Few of the disposal from 1986 still
work for NASA, but despite this, the plan as a whole is continually seeking to
upgrade safety processs and equipment. The crew of the doomed Challenger have
staked their claim in the history books and due to the extended media coverage, stop dead
images in peoples? heads that might last everlastingly. Whenever covering with hazardous engineering,
accidents are bound to go on. It? s genuinely excessively bad that such a collaborating, heart-felt
event had a tragic terminal that crushed America? s societal indomitability. The yesteryear has a quality of
reiterating itself, and when NASA? s luckless twenty-four hours comes up once more, it will most likely set the
graduated table for the most covered infinite mission in history, once more.
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Lewis, Richard S. Challenger: The Final Voyage. New York: Columbia UP, 1988.
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