Truth, Lies, and O-rings: Inside the Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster

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University Press of Florida, 2009 - History - 626 pages
What they didn't want you to know

"We all watched in shock and disbelief when Challenger was lost. Probably no one felt more disappointment and regret than Allan McDonald, who had warned us not to launch that day. His story tells of loss, grief, and the eventual rebuilding and recovery."--Robert "Hoot" Gibson, former Space Shuttle pilot and commander

"A major contribution to a difficult episode in the history of human spaceflight."--Roger D. Launius, Division of Space History, Smithsonian Institution

"McDonald tells the heartbreaking tale of how he saw his words of warning ignored, and the fateful consequences of that decision."--Donald C. Elder III, Eastern New Mexico University

On a cold January morning in 1986, NASA launched the Space Shuttle Challenger, despite warnings against doing so by many individuals, including Allan McDonald. The fiery destruction of Challenger on live television moments after launch remains an indelible image in the nation's collective memory.

In Truth, Lies, and O-Rings, McDonald, a skilled engineer and executive, relives the tragedy from where he stood at Launch Control Center. As he fought to draw attention to the real reasons behind the disaster, he was the only one targeted for retribution by both NASA and his employer, Morton Thiokol, Inc., makers of the shuttle's solid rocket boosters. In this whistle-blowing yet rigorous and fair-minded book, McDonald, with the assistance of internationally distinguished aerospace historian James R. Hansen, addresses all of the factors that led to the accident, some of which were never included in NASA's Failure Team report submitted to the Presidential Commission.

Truth, Lies, and O-Rings is the first look at the Challenger tragedy and its aftermath from someone who was on the inside, recognized the potential disaster, and tried to prevent it. It also addresses the early warnings of very severe debris issues from the first two post-Challenger flights, which ultimately resulted in the loss of Columbia some fifteen years later.

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Excellent history of the challenger disaster from an engineering and ethical perspective. Alan Mcdonald, the author of this book was the engineer/manager who directed the solid rocket booster (SRB) program for Thiokol. He was also one of three Thiokol engineers who, on the eve of the ill-fated challenger launch, warned against launching until the ambient temperature at the launch site was at a level that the O-ring sealed joints on the SRB could function safely. On the eve of launch the air temperature was sub-freezing while engineers at Thiokol had taken the position that a temperature of 53F was the minimum for a safe launch.
For his stance and for speaking before the Rogers Commission, Mcdonald received disapproval from his own management at Thiokol and from NASA management responsible for the SRB contract.

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - DCavin - LibraryThing

A very detailed read of what occurred before and after the Challenger accident. Not too technical either, so I didn't get stumped. Read full review


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About the author (2009)

Allan J. McDonald retired as vice president and technical director for advanced technology programs at ATK Thiokol Propulsion in 2001. He was the director of the Space Shuttle Solid Rocket Motor Project at the time of the Challenger accident and, later, vice president of engineering for space operations during the redesign and requalification of the solid rocket motors. James R. Hansen is professor of history and director of the Honors College at Auburn University. He is the author of First Man, an award-winning biography of Neil Armstrong which spent three weeks on the New York Times Bestseller List.

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