The Space Shuttle Challenger and Climate Change

From The Huffington Post:

On January 27, 1986, the night before the Space Shuttle Challenger was to be launched, a phone conference took place between NASA managers and Morton Thiokol, the manufacturer of the shuttle’s solid rocket motors. Engineers from the rocket company told NASA that it would be too cold (26ºF) to launch since the previous coldest launch (53ºF) showed burn-through problems with the O-ring seals and therefore there was no data to show that it was safe to launch. The NASA managers asked if they could prove that the rockets would fail at low temperatures and, of course, it could not be proved. NASA then held a private call with the rocket company’s managers, with the engineers excluded, and got them to agree to say it was OK to launch. The Challenger exploded the next day, 73 seconds after launch.

Of course, the NASA managers had asked the wrong question given that it was a life and death matter. Rather than asking if there was proof that the launch would fail, they should have asked if there was proof that the launch would succeed.

The discussion of climate change is following a similar course. Climate scientists are telling us that we are headed for catastrophe if we keep emitting CO2 and other greenhouse gases. But instead of heeding their warnings, we are asking for proof of the impending disaster. We harp on minor errors in otherwise overwhelming evidence and we rail against scientists when they express their frustration about the ability of deniers to confuse the public.

[Read more The Huffington Post]

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  • FergalR

    Bullshit. A 10 kilometer wide asteroid could hit Earth next week, so lets spend every resource we have digging 2 kilometer deep meteorite shelters for everyone on the planet. Fuckwits.

    The Earth hasn't warmed to any statistically significant degree for 15 years. AGW was a scam, until everyone realised it was, now it's just a joke.

    ExxonMobil gives $10 million a year to just one university's climate department. Big oil funds AGW hysteria. Fact.

  • 5by5

    “The NASA managers asked if they could prove that the rockets would fail at low temperatures and, of course, it could not be proved. NASA then held a private call with the rocket company’s managers, with the engineers excluded, and got them to agree to say it was OK to launch. The Challenger exploded the next day, 73 seconds after launch.”

    The important thing to ask is WHY the folks at NASA were even inquiring whether they could launch under those risky conditions in the first place.

    And regrettably, the answer to that, is disgusting.

    What NOBODY talks about is that NASA was pressured to launch AT THAT TIME despite the risks, for the sake of PR and political hackery.

    For more on this I HIGHLY recommend Marc Gerstein & Michael Ellsberg’s (son of the man who released the Pentagon Papers) book called “Flirting With Disaster: Why Accidents are Rarely Accidental”.

    http://www.powells.com/biblio/62-9781402753039-0

    They’ve found out that the reason why they launched the Shuttle on THAT PARTICULAR DAY, was because Ronald Reagan wanted to talk with the astronauts live, during his State of the Union speech.

    Now that particular day happened to be the coldest that they had ever launched on. Normally, because of all the problems that accompany icing anyways, they would have postponed the launch until things warmed up a bit. And the engineers had previously expressed concerns about why the O-rings were behaving as they were in other launches. But if they hadn’t launched THAT DAY, the Republicans wouldn’t have been able to USE those HUMANS onboard for their precious photo-op.

    So NASA, who’s budget had already been cut by those same Republicans to just 1/3rd of what it was during the Apollo days, had to deal with that reality, along with all the normal pressures, plus the additional ones surrounding having the first civilian aboard, and now there there were pressures from the White House to launch – in spite of the cold – for fear that if they didn’t, even MORE of their budget would be cut.

    To put it in the simplest terms, THE REPUBLICANS KILLED THOSE PEOPLE FOR A STUPID SPEECH.

    And Administrators at NASA? Let them.

    Gerstein & Ellsberg’s book confronts many incidents (the Bophal chemical disaster, Sibel Edmonds, Enron, the Stanford Experiment & Abu Ghraib, Chernobyl, Katrina, and a bunch of others) and how these large-scale disasters happen, why truth-tellers are not only ignored, but actively punished for that truth-telling, how those we’ve called our leaders are willing to engage in great risks with OTHER people’s lives, and to silence those who reveal those risks. Such actions ultimately weaken us all, and can only be combated, if we face the reality of them.

    Though mileage may vary regarding whether you liked the actual movie or not, there was an important line in “The Da Vinci Code” that applies here. The character of the French woman thought to be the descendant of Jesus Christ says in passing, “We are who we protect.”

    One reason why ethical behavior is so lacking, is that we fail to ask the right questions of ourselves.

    “Who am I protecting with this action (or lack thereof)? The powerful? The wealthy? The status quo? The bottom line at the expense of ordinary people? My own skin?”

    Or, “Am I protecting those who cannot defend themselves? Those who might be unaware of a problem, yet endangered by it? Those who are young or elderly? Those who are poor?”

    WHO DO YOU PROTECT?

    WHAT DO YOU PROTECT?

    The Rule of Law? The rights of everyone to equal treatment? Fairness itself? The environment that sustains all life? Logic? Honor? People, or property? Ego? Career?

    How you answer that, determines your character, and could either make life better, or cost lives.

  • 5by5

    “The NASA managers asked if they could prove that the rockets would fail at low temperatures and, of course, it could not be proved. NASA then held a private call with the rocket company’s managers, with the engineers excluded, and got them to agree to say it was OK to launch. The Challenger exploded the next day, 73 seconds after launch.”

    The important thing to ask is WHY the folks at NASA were even inquiring whether they could launch under those risky conditions in the first place.

    And regrettably, the answer to that, is disgusting.

    What NOBODY talks about is that NASA was pressured to launch AT THAT TIME despite the risks, for the sake of PR and political hackery.

    For more on this I HIGHLY recommend Marc Gerstein & Michael Ellsberg's (son of the man who released the Pentagon Papers) book called “Flirting With Disaster: Why Accidents are Rarely Accidental”.

    http://www.powells.com/biblio/62-9781402753039-0

    They've found out that the reason why they launched the Shuttle on THAT PARTICULAR DAY, was because Ronald Reagan wanted to talk with the astronauts live, during his State of the Union speech.

    Now that particular day happened to be the coldest that they had ever launched on. Normally, because of all the problems that accompany icing anyways, they would have postponed the launch until things warmed up a bit. And the engineers had previously expressed concerns about why the O-rings were behaving as they were in other launches. But if they hadn't launched THAT DAY, the Republicans wouldn't have been able to USE those HUMANS onboard for their precious photo-op.

    So NASA, who's budget had already been cut by those same Republicans to just 1/3rd of what it was during the Apollo days, had to deal with that reality, along with all the normal pressures, plus the additional ones surrounding having the first civilian aboard, and now there there were pressures from the White House to launch – in spite of the cold – for fear that if they didn't, even MORE of their budget would be cut.

    To put it in the simplest terms, THE REPUBLICANS KILLED THOSE PEOPLE FOR A STUPID SPEECH.

    And Administrators at NASA? Let them.

    Gerstein & Ellsberg's book confronts many incidents (the Bophal chemical disaster, Sibel Edmonds, Enron, the Stanford Experiment & Abu Ghraib, Chernobyl, Katrina, and a bunch of others) and how these large-scale disasters happen, why truth-tellers are not only ignored, but actively punished for that truth-telling, how those we've called our leaders are willing to engage in great risks with OTHER people's lives, and to silence those who reveal those risks. Such actions ultimately weaken us all, and can only be combated, if we face the reality of them.

    Though mileage may vary regarding whether you liked the actual movie or not, there was an important line in “The Da Vinci Code” that applies here. The character of the French woman thought to be the descendant of Jesus Christ says in passing, “We are who we protect.”

    One reason why ethical behavior is so lacking, is that we fail to ask the right questions of ourselves.

    “Who am I protecting with this action (or lack thereof)? The powerful? The wealthy? The status quo? The bottom line at the expense of ordinary people? My own skin?”

    Or, “Am I protecting those who cannot defend themselves? Those who might be unaware of a problem, yet endangered by it? Those who are young or elderly? Those who are poor?”

    WHO DO YOU PROTECT?

    WHAT DO YOU PROTECT?

    The Rule of Law? The rights of everyone to equal treatment? Fairness itself? The environment that sustains all life? Logic? Honor? People, or property? Ego? Career?

    How you answer that, determines your character, and could either make life better, or cost lives.

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