Engineering Ethics Case Study: The Challenger Disaster by ..

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Engineering Ethics Case Study: The Challenger Disaster by Mark Rossow, PhD retired

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crew of space shuttle challenger5

On January 28, 1986, the Space Shuttle Challenger burst into flame shortly after liftoff. All passengers aboard the vehicle were killed. A presidential commission was formed to investigate the cause of the accident and found that the O-ring seals had failed, and, furthermore, that the seals had been recognized as a potential hazard for several years prior to the disaster. The commission’s report, Report to the President by the Presidential Commission on the Space Shuttle Challenger Accident, stated that because managers and engineers had known in advance of the O-ring danger, the accident was principally caused by a lack of communication between engineers and management and by poor management practices. This became the standard interpretation of the cause of the Challenger disaster and routinely appears in popular articles and books about engineering, management, and ethical issues.

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