Essay on Timeline of Events and Causes of the Challenger Space Shuttle Accident

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Timeline of events and causes of the Challenger Space shuttle accident

In 28 January 1986, the Space Shuttle Challenger was launched for the Last time and exploded less than 2 minutes after the lift-off resulting in the deaths of all seven crew members on board (Space shuttle challenger: Wikipedia, 2006).

The failure of the solid rocket booster o-rings was attributed to several factors, including faulty design of the solid rocket boosters, insufficient low temperature testing of the O-ring material and lack of communication between different levels of NASA management.

A timeline of the events leading up to the explosion of the Challenger Space shuttle:

(Times in EST)

January 22 [3:43 p.m.] Lift-off was initially scheduled
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There was thus no formal ‘decision support system’ for shuttle operations prior to the Challenger launch (space shuttle :, 1997).

Characteristics of decision making were short cuts, compromise, operational expediency, and complacency. This complacency meant that NASA managers looked for evidence to support mission success rather than evidence indicating possible mission failure (nasa: government, 2006). The effect of these factors is indicated clearly in the decision to launch.

Therefore, the NASA managers played a significant role in the decision to carry out the launching which resulted in the catastrophic flight.

These top managers from NASA should be held accountable for their decision, since it was not based on the engineers’ recommendation, not to go ahead with the launch.

Communications did not flow effectively from the top management of NASA to middle level management. A high ranking manager from NASA had actually bypassed his engineers who had all the sufficient information for the launch and gone directly to a middle level manager to seek his opinion.


• Managers should not ignore their own engineering experience, or the expertise of their subordinate engineers.

• Do not allow political sources to override the organizations decisions.

• All decisions made must put safety first and operational goals last and not vice versa.