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The Lessons That Engineers Can Learn From The Challenger's Disaster (Term Paper Sample)


It deals with engineering ethics while designing. Mainly reflected from the challenger's disaster.

Memo number: Date: To: From: Lesson Engineers Learn from The Challenger Disaster Introduction The main concept behind this paper is to understand the lessons that engineers can learn from the challenger’s disaster. In the year 1997 on February 18th, it was a proud day for Nasa with the new discoveries and innovations in space exploration. Seven years later the challenger disaster hit the world with the space shuttle disintegrating seventy-three seconds after launching. This was a great disaster not only to the world but also to the world of engineering. From this incidents engineers learn many codes and ethical conducts which they should always observe while I their engineering world. Reflecting from the overall incident I will be able to discuss three main lesson that “New engineers” can learn from this. My main focus will be on the technical problem that the designers and engineers of this space shuttle try to relate with the cause of the disaster referred to as the O-ring problem. Background After the challenger disaster seven people lost their lifes. According to the research carried out to determine the cause of this tragedy, the cause of the disaster was the results of compromising of a crucial component of the shuttle by the cold weather on the launch day. However, there was still pressure to launch the shuttle and belief in the infallibility of the decision-making process which also have contributed to this failure. The engineers of this shuttle were so cautious and they warned their superiors that the shuttle O-ring were vulnerable to failure due to the cold weathers. It was later established that two rubber O-rings that were designed to separate the part of the rocket booster had failed due to the cold temperatures experienced that morning. This event hit the media causing the Nasa company to temporary stop its space operations. The O-ring failure caused a breakage of the solid rocket booster joining parts, allowing high pressurized flames that consisted of hydrogen and oxygen within the solid rocket motor to get to the outside and influenced upon all the adjacent SRB aft field joint attachment hardware and the external fuel tank thus resulting into a blast that caused fire. This caused the separation of the right hand SRB’s aft field joint attachments and also the structural failure of the external tank. According to design information about the shuttle, it did not have an escape system, and the force at which it hit the ocean floors was too violent for any member of the crew to survive.The crew members were later removed from the oceans after a lengthy search. There were many factors that contributed to the challenger’s accident. Nasa management was one of the cause. Since it landed the first man in space the organization started focusing on public display other than true engineering technology. After the second space mission engineers discovered that the ship had problems with the O- rings due to erosion. However, they did not take this issue serious which resulted in these accident. Even after the O-rings erosion was established and later termed as a critical issue that would lead to damages no engineer at Nasa looked into the issue. Discussion Focusing on Feynman’s point the O-ring problem. From the Feynman’s report about cause of the shuttle disaster engineers can learn that technical trouble shooting and consulting is required before launching any new inventories in the engineering field. The flames that blow by the O-ring causing structural failure were attributed to a design flaw. Feynman once showed how the O-rings become more less pliant and point to seal failure by dipping a specimen of the material used to design the O-rings I a glass of ice cold water to show how the cold weather affect the O-rings. Feynman’s investigation report shows that there a disconnect between the Nasa’s engineers and the executives. From the report engineers are advised to give a good presentation of results they find out from a tragedy or an investigation. Edward Tufte who is a data scientist clearly illustrated how bad presentation of data can be deadly. He points out that the graph the Nasa’s engineers used were not meant to obfuscate trends, but they did not privilege style of substance. From the discussed events before the occurrence of the tragedy, poor quality, a needless rocket motif and arrangement by date, instead o focusing on the important issues of temperature. Feynman’s results showed that every launch at a temperature below 66 degrees resulted in O-rings failure. The engineers knew that launching of the shuttle below this temperature would be a failure but, without any questioning their superiors allowed the launch of the shuttle. However, according to Feynman the disaster can not be directly be associated with engineers but the Nasa’ s management. In his report Feynman says that Nasa had become less strict in certification for flight readiness. He say the then continues and says that the problem was as a resultof the engineers negligence, basing their argument that same flight had been flown before with no failure. As the result similar weaknesses and problems were accepted repeatedly leading to the disaster. The launch delay was another very important aspect that clearly reflects why engineers should not be negligent due to some external factors. The first postponement of the challenger’s mission was due to weather prediction that indicated occurrence of rains and cold temperature. According to rules that govern mission launch, postponement should not be done. But due to the political influence, the Vice president visit to witness the launch the engineers choose to ignore this fact and listened to the management to delay the launch which later costed them Maintaining standards is another important aspect that engineers should learn this event. From Feynman’s point engineers can learn that standard matters in every aspect of engineering. Looking at the solid rocket booster, this are most important elements in the operation of the shuttle. Without these elements the shuttle can not generate enough thrust that can overcome the earths force of gravity to travel to the space. Engineering speculations indicate thatsolid rocket booster should be mountedon both side of the external fuel tank. Each booster should be at least 149 feet long and 13 feet in diameter and before the ignition is done each booster should contain a minimum weight of 2 million pounds. Solid rockets are believed to produce more thrust than their counterpart fuel tanks. Once the rocket fuel has be ignited it is almost impossible to control it. From assumption of Feynman’s finding he indicates that there was failure in one of the SRB. According to him a proper design of these component was lacking, and the standards of the existing one was not maintained.(Hermann, 1945) The engineers knew very well the purpose of the O-rings was to prevent hot combustion gases from escaping from the inside motor of the shuttle and yet they authorized the launch of a shuttle with a safety factor of 3. Before the night of the launch Thiokol’s engineering Vice president Bob Lund presented a report on the temperature at which the shuttle should be launched. He had concluded that 53 ⁰ F was the only temperature at which shuttle could be launched. However, according to Nasa’s engineer’s standard of temperature of launch which was 31⁰F the launch could be conducted. Later Feynman’s results of the research showed that the 31⁰F temperature was for the storage and the launch temperature was 45⁰F instead. This complication led to launching of the shuttle at allow temperature without even checking if the O-ring had experienced erosion. Later the Marshall’s Solid Rocket project manager, Larry Mulloy, says that the data that the engin...
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