Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster


The purpose of this paper is to explore the ethical issues that arise from the space shuttle Challenger disaster. The paper will explore the negligence on the part of engineers which resulted in the disaster. This paper discusses the human and environmental decision makings issues that lead to the launching of the popular space shuttle challenger in 1986. The shuttle exploded shortly after it was launched. The explosion resulted into the destruction of the vehicle as well as all the crew members who were within the vehicle. This paper explores the cause as well as the contributing factors that resulted into the challenger’s tragedy has been explored in depth. The focus of the essay has been placed on the ethical aspect by placing major focus on NASA’s usage of a group decisions support system meeting in order to make its decision to launch the space challenger.

Facts from the Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster Case

The paper has included examples that indicate how demand and multiple priorities influenced NASA from carrying out its operations in ethical and responsible manner. The papers also offer the proofs of the flawed database were used by NASA in its group decision support system meeting. The paper also explores the inability of the members who participated in the meeting to vote anonymously on NASA decision to launch the space shuttle in 1986 has been discussed as a key factor that if it was allowed, maybe it would have prevented the shuttle tragedy from occurring. It is clear from the case that the management of NASA made a decision on the basis of launching the space shuttle challenge based on the multiple priorities and demand rather than ethical issues. It is clear that their failure to deal with the faults that resulted into the fatal tragedy shortly after the launch of the space shuttle.

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The testimony given by Thompson, Boisjoly and Morton received criticism from the Congress, press as well as the Roger’s commission. They were viewed by the management as being disloyal employees. The testimony of the two employees that is Thompson and Boisjoly resulted in them being removed from their responsibility of redesigning the rocket boosters. It is also clear that management of NASA isolated the two employees due to their testimony which laid the blame of the tragedy over the failure of the management to take into consideration of the flaws that were realized in the rocket booster in the decision to launch the space shuttle. From the case it is clear that the management acted unethical and irresponsibly by launching the space shuttle challenger with the knowledge of the flaws (Beauchamp & Arnold, 2009).

The human factor contributed to the tragedy. Even though the destruction of the space shuttle can be said to have been caused by hardware failures of the rocket booster, the decision taken by the management to launch it was flawed. The information that was used to make the decision was faulty and the error was made worse by the fact that the information that was used to make the decision had been mismanaged.

On the other hand, it is a fact that some human factors contributed to the disaster. The demand on the space shuttle by the American people can be said to be have resulted to the NASA group making the decision to launch the space shuttle Challenger. The demands of the political class can be concluded to have resulted in the loss of lives after the disaster occurred.


It is assumed that it is the responsibility of the management of any given institution to ensure that the operations of the institution are run ethically. The paper makes the assumption that the management of NASA decided to launch the space shuttle Challenger. The management decision to remove Thompson and Boisjoly can be assumed to have been taken because it is expected that employees should keep the secret of their workplace and it is unethical for them to make the issues of the organization they are working for the public. This case study assumes that if the management has used the right information in making the decision to launch it would have decided to stop the launch until the problem with the rocket booster had been fixed. Finally, in this paper assumption is made that if the space shuttle Challenger was not launched with any flaws on it, the fatal accident could not have occurred resulting to the loss of lives.

Philosophical Questions

This paper seeks to answer the following three philosophical questions in relation to the space shuttle Challenger disaster.

  • Was the decision of the management to remove Thompson and Boisjoly informed and what are the ethical issues that arise from the decision?
  • How true are the claims that that both human and environmental factors contributed to the tragedy? Is there any support for the claims?
  • If you were the decision maker what was the best path to follow between ethical and meeting the demands of the society?

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Case Study Question 2

This part of the case study seeks to analyze the philosophical question in relation to the contribution of both environmental and human factors to the space shuttle Challenger disaster in 1986.

Based on the demands of the American society from the various quotas such political class for the need of space transportation can be said to have influenced the NASA decision group to make it launch decision in a hurry. The demands inserted some sort of pressure on NASA to make an impact in the transportation sector in America, this could have resulted in the launch of space shuttle even with the decision panel being aware of the faults of the rocket booster.

On the other hand, it is very clear that human factors contributed greatly to the tragedy. The decision to launch a shuttle with mechanical problems was a very a costly mistake and irresponsible act on the part of NASA management. The provision of incorrect information by the management to the decision panel was unethical on the part of the group as it resulted into uninformed decision to launch the space shuttle that resulted into the fatal accident ( Kramer & Jaska, 1987).


It is very clear that environmental and human factors contributed to the fatal accident of the space shuttle challenger that resulted in the loss of lives. If NASA Management had acted ethically and responsibly the fatal accident would have been prevented. In my view honesty in any given business is vital as it helps to avoid moral problems that would result from unethical practices. It is the role of any given management to ensure that it makes informed decision in relation to launching of new products in the market as this decisions may have a positive or negative impact on the image of the business. Therefore, operating the business within ethics is a costly adventure but it plays a crucial part in protecting the business from future problems.

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