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.
Texto en Español
The significance of January 1985 as the starting point results from the observations made during the post-flight hardware inspection of Flight 51C. During this inspection I found evidence that hot combustion gases had compromised the primary seals on two field joints. My concern heightened as a result of the large amount of blackened grease I observed between the two seals. Subsequent to reporting the findings to my superiors, I was asked to proceed to the Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) in Huntsville, Alabama, to brief them with a preliminary viewgraph presentation which included my observations and an explanation of the scenarios that caused the seal erosion and hot gas blow-by.
Morton Thiokol was then asked to prepare a detailed presentation as part of the Flight Readiness Review for Flight 51E, which was scheduled for launch in April 1985. This presentation was given in February at three successively higher-level review boards with refinements in contents made at each level. I presented my belief that the lower-than-usual launch temperature was responsible for such a large witness of hot gas blow-by, but NASA management insisted that this position be softened for the final review board.
What is the problem confronting Boisjoly here? The shuttle is already behind schedule, and the leaks in the primary seal in Flight 51C in January 1985 occurred during the worst temperature change in Florida history -- hardly everyday conditions. Which of the following actions would be appropriate to take at this point?