The explosion of space shuttle Challenger on January 28, 1986, and the death of the seven astronauts aboard had a major impact on American culture, with many people still vividly remembering exactly where they were and what they were doing when they heard about the tragedy. Journalists and investigators have historically cited production problems and managerial wrong-doing as the reasons behind the disaster. The Presidential Commission uncovered a flawed decision-making process at the space agency as well, citing a well-documented history of problems with the O-ring and a dramatic last-minute protest by engineers over the Solid Rocket Boosters as evidence of managerial neglect. Why did NASA managers, who not only had all the information prior to the launch but also were warned against it, decide to proceed? In retelling how the decision unfolded through the eyes of the managers and the engineers, this book uncovers an incremental descent into poor judgment, supported by a culture of high-risk technology. The author reveals how and why NASA insiders, when repeatedly faced with evidence that something was wrong, normalized the deviance so that it became acceptable to them.
No safety rules were broken. No single individual was at fault. Instead, the cause of the disaster stemmed from the banality of organizational life. This work explains why the Challenger tragedy must be re-examined and seeks to offer a warning about the hidden hazards of living in this technological age.