Thursday, December 28, 2006

Roger Boisjoly - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:

Eventually, in late 1985 Boisjoly advised his managers that - if the problem was not fixed, there was a distinct chance that a shuttle mission would end in disaster. No action was taken.

Following the announcement that the Challenger mission was confirmed for 28 January 1986, Boisjoly and his colleagues determined to try and stop the flight. Temperatures were due to be down to -14°C overnight. Boisjoly felt that this would severely compromise the safety of the O-Ring - and potentially lose the flight.

The matter was discussed with Morton Thiokol management - who agreed that the issue was serious enough to recommend delaying the flight. They arranged a telephone conference with NASA management and gave their findings. However, after a while, the Morton Thiokol managers asked for a few minutes off the phone to discuss their final position again. Despite the efforts of Boisjoly and others in this off-air briefing, the Morton Thiokol managers decided to advise NASA that their data was inconclusive. NASA asked if anyone objected. Boisjoly stayed silent and the decision to fly the ill-fated STS-51L Challenger mission was made.

Boisjoly's theory of a massive disaster proved to be correct when, on the morning of January 28, 1986, at Cape Canaveral, 73 seconds into the mission, the space shuttle Challenger disintegrated, killing its seven member crew. In fact, Boisjoly was quite relieved when the flight lifted off, as his investigations had predicted that the SRB would explode during the initial take-off. 73 seconds later he witnessed the shuttle explosion on TV.

After Ronald Reagan ordered a Presidential Committee to review the disaster, Boisjoly was one of the witnesses called. He gave accounts of how and why he felt the O-Rings had failed. After the Committee gave its findings, Boisjoly found himself shunned by colleagues and managers and he resigned from the company.