Roger Boisjoly had over a quarter-century's experience in the aerospace industry in 1985 when he became involved in an improvement effort on the O-rings which connect segments of Morton Thiokol's Solid Rocket Booster, used to bring the Space Shuttle into orbit. Boisjoly has spent his entire career making well-informed decisions based on his understanding of and belief in a professional engineer's rights and responsibilities. For his honesty and integrity leading up to and directly following the shuttle disaster, Roger Boisjoly was awarded the Prize for Scientific Freedom and Responsibility by...
Roger Boisjoly had over a quarter-century's experience in the aerospace industry in 1985 when he became involved in an improvement effort on the O-rings which connect segments of Morton Thiokol's Solid Rocket Booster, used to bring the Space Shuttle into orbit. Boisjoly has spent his entire career making well-informed decisions based on his understanding of and belief in a professional engineer's rights and responsibilities. For his honesty and integrity leading up to and directly following the shuttle disaster, Roger Boisjoly was awarded the Prize for Scientific Freedom and Responsibility by the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Mr. Boisjoly died of cancer in St. George, Utah on Jan. 6, 2012. He spent his final years offering workshops and lectures on changing workplace ethics for numerous universities and civic groups.
For more information see this rememberance on NPR.
January 28, 1986. Two video clips of the Challenger Explosion from CNN: "Reagan honors shuttle crew (1986)" and "NASA remembers Challenger".
In January of 1987, nearly a full year after the Challenger exploded, Roger Boisjoly spoke at MIT about his attempts to avert the disaster during the year preceding the Challenger launch. According to the Report of the Presidential Commission on the Space Shuttle Challenger Accident, "evidence pointed to the right solid rocket booster as the source of the accident." In 1985 Boisjoly began work to improve the O-ring seals which connect segments of Morton Thiokol's solid rocket booster. Boisjoly was frustrated with the slow progress and the lack of management attention to the seal task force. He spoke about the events leading up to the disaster in this address.
Boisjoly's discussion of the Challenger Disaster is separated into seven sections. Each section is then followed by some possible responses. To see discussion of any response, click on the link to it. Supporting material is also provided. You may want to consult some of it in deciding what you would have done in Roger Boisjoly's place at each stage of the story.
This page and supporting pages were originally created by Jagruti S. Patel and Phil Sarin.
Roger Boisjoly presented this material first in a talk in January 1987 at MIT. The first publication was in the volume of conference papers for the 1987 Annual Meetings of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers in fall 1987.
Boisjoly, Roger M. 1987.
Ethical Decisions -- Morton Thiokol and the Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster.
American Society of Mechanical Engineers Annual Meetings.
Born April 25,1938 in Lowell. Massachusetts. Received a
B.S.G.E. (Mechanical Engineering) degree in 1960 from the
University of Massachusetts at Lowell (formerly Lowell
Technological Institute). Also enrolled in Continuing Education
Courses while in industry and subsequently, seminars in
Forensic Engineering Practices and Investigative Methods.
Employed 27 years in the United States Aerospace Industry in
the primary disciplines of Mechanical Design and Structural
Analysis. Pursued a career agenda to go beyond the normal job
description of "Designer Only" or "Analysts
Only" by participating in a Full Circle of engineering
& related disciplines. This career agenda supplied me with
many unique experience tools providing a natural transition
into Forensic Engineering and
Lecturing about Professionalism,
Organizational Behavior and Ethics. My final assignment
in industry was a Technical Troubleshooter on the Space Shuttle
Solid Rocket Boosters. As a principal engineer in the telecon
meeting with NASA managers, I recommended and defended the
original no-launch decision, then vigorously opposed the four
Thiokol senior managers who subsequently seized control of the
meeting and voted to launch Challenger despite my continual
objection. My testimony was vital to exposing the truth about
the decision to launch and the organizational misbehavior at
both Morton Thiokol and NASA.
Lectures on Ethics, Professionalism and Organizational
Behavior given at many leading Universities, Technical
Societies, Corporations and Civic Organizations in the USA,
Canada, Mexico, Norway and Argentina. A wide variety of
lectures have been given and are available to fulfill a broad
spectrum of needs, while keeping a focus on ethics,
professionalism and organizational behavior. In the beginning,
the two most requested presentations were "The Space
Shuttle Challenger Disaster - a paradigm for changing
workplace/career ethics" which focuses on the Challenger
pre-launch decision process using a timeline of major technical
problem discoveries on the booster joints. Also presented is
management behavior at Morton Thiokol and NASA prior to and
subsequent to launch. "Commencement of a Professional
Career" which focuses on: The Task of Selecting an Entry
Level Position; Getting Settled in the Position Selected; How
to Get Recognition for a High Quantity of Quality Work Output;
How to Spot Defined Organizational Trouble & What to Do
About It; Examples from Boisjoly's career, showing the
importance of developing Ethical Professional Behavior.
Additional lectures having heightened recent appeal along
with the previous two are: "The Challenger Disaster &
Commencement of a Professional Career" which combines
elements from each talk to create the best opportunity for
lessons learned to avoid career problems that can often result
in career or organizational unethical behavior, if lessons
learned are ignored. "What do Engineers Do? - the anatomy
of making a widget" explains the inner workings of the
engineering profession by using the steps required to take a
widget (product) from an idea/concept to a finished product.
Some show & tell items are used to demonstrate, explain,
& simplify some basic engineering and manufacturing
principles used to produce a high volume of identical widgets.
"The Overemphasis on Excessive Profits at the expense of
Professionalism, Business Ethics & Safe Quality
Products" discusses case examples from Boisjoly's
Forensic Engineering practice from commercial & consumer
products to the stealing of trade secrets and unethical
professional behavior. Several defective products are
highlighted with video clips and sketches showing the obvious
defects and the relatively minor cost effective fixes that were
ignored by the manufacturers, even after litigation exposed the
defects. "Professional Life After Being Branded a
Whistleblower" addresses the recovery details from a
destroyed career and how a typical blackball by industry was
defeated by creation of a self-employed career. Several vivid
examples of corporate mistreatment of a Whistleblower are given
to demonstrate the uphill battle necessary to survive the
event. "The Importance of Leadership, Teamwork &
Information Flow and Ethical Behavior" discusses the 30+
year decline of business ethics in the USA. The consequences
are demonstrated by using a brief summary of the Challenger
disaster launch decision process. The presentation concludes
with recommendations and rationale for what constitutes a
productive organization and why teamwork, information flow and
ethics are so important for long-term success.
Presentations can be customized for content focus and length
from a 1/2 hour Luncheon talk to a 2 hr. main talk plus Q/A.
Also available are partial day or multiple day workshops or
seminars. Over 550 lectures given since January 1987.
Registered Professional Engineer in Arizona, Florida
(retired) and Utah, by National Examinations