opinion Essay
1123 words
1123 words

On January 26, 1986, one of

the greatest disasters of our time occurred. When Challenger was destroyed

many questions were asked about the safety of space missions. Many questions

were asked about the credibility of the engineers who designed the air craft.

It is now know that crucial information about the faulty O-rings was know

to many if not all of the engineers. These engineers had many moral decisions

they had to face when the problem was first noticed, which was as early as

November 1981.

When a shuttle is launched their are two booster rockets attached

to the side of it that disconnect when the shuttle gets into orbit. The rockets

that were on the Challenger were manufactured by Morton-Thiokol, an engineering

company. This company then sends the rockets to the launch site where they

are assembled. Where the different pieces of the rocket fit together, there

is a set of O-rings that make a seal around the booster. Around the O-rings

their is a putty substance that holds the O-rings in place. In November of

1981, after the flight of the second shuttle mission, the joints where examined,

and the O-rings were eroded.

The joints were still sealing effectively but

the O-ring material was decaying because of hot gasses that went through the

putty. At this point Roger Boisjoly an engineer for Morton-Thiokol started

researching different types of putty to reduce the corrosion on the O-rings.

After testing the O-rings in the laboratory it was found that they did not

return to their original size after being compressed at low temperatures.

Thiokol designed a set of billets that would hold the joint more firmly in

place. These billets were not ready on the day of the Challenger disaster

because they took too long to manufacture, and NASA did not want to delay the


The next tests took place in June of 1985 at Morton-Thiokol in

Utah. The primary seal on flight 51B which flew on April 29, 1985, was eroded;

"eroded in 3 places over a 1.3 inch length up to a maximum depth of.171 inches.

It was postulated that this primary seal had never sealed during the full

two minute flight."i It's at this point that Boisjoly knew he had to go to

his superiors about the problem. In August of 1985 Morton-Thiokol formed a

task force of engineers to solve the problem of the O-rings. This task force

only consisted of 5 engineers wh...

... middle of paper ...

...tressed more in the education of an engineer. Engineers must realize

that their are many situations that people put their live in the hands of the

engineer. Every time we step into a car we are relying on the design of an

engineer, and if any part of it fails the passenger could get hurt if not killed.

In today's society their are many institutions that protect the public from

technology; buildings must meet certain regulations, and cars have to meet

certain safety standards. But their are not as many organizations that protect

the rights of the engineers. When can we say that it is no longer the engineer's

fault, and say that it is the fault of the operator? Engineers must be careful

when it comes to ethical standards, they should not have to be in the same

position that Boisjoly was in. By evaluating the situation and acting according

to what is best for society and themselves they should find a perfect median


morals and management.

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In this essay, the author

  • Explains that they had to face when the problem was first noticed, which was as early as possible.
  • Describes the rockets that disconnect when the shuttle gets into orbit.
  • Describes a set of o-rings that seal around the booster.
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