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7 Myths About The Challenger Disaster

CowboyNeal posted more than 8 years ago | from the remembering-it-correctly dept.

NASA 629

Lester67 writes "James Oberg at MSNBC has put together an excellent recap of the 7 myths surrounding the Challenger shuttle disaster. I remember that day clearly, but as the author points out, I didn't see it live, nor did a large chunk of the people said they did (Myth #1). Although there are no surprises on the list, regression may have caused you to forget a few of them (#3)."

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Live at school (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14577015)

I remember clearly watching the events unfold in my second grade classroom (must have been the satelite feed mentioned). I think it was the most traumatic event up to that point in my life.

Re:Live at school (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14577123)

I was in second grade as well. I remember us all being moved into one classroom where they set up a TV, connected it to the cable, turned out the lights and we all watched the shuttle start to lift off and then it went. The classroom went from cheers, to silence, then tears. Most of the teachers were simply stunned and a lot of the other kids (myself included) were really bothered by it. I still don't remember much else of what happened that day.
-J-

In the words of Memento's Leonard Shelby.. (5, Insightful)

Channard (693317) | more than 8 years ago | (#14577124)

'Memory can change the shape of a room; it can change the color of a car. And memories can be distorted. They're just an interpretation, they're not a record, and they're irrelevant if you have the facts.'

Re:Live at school (1)

suprslackr420 (462216) | more than 8 years ago | (#14577130)

I watched in seventh grade during school, during science class. Very sad and confusing.

Re:Live at school (2, Interesting)

Leontes (653331) | more than 8 years ago | (#14577149)

I was going to be one of those schoolchildren that watached it in my classroom, but they cancelled on us, and I watched in on the news when I got home.

One of the more interesting aspects of this that interest me regarding the incident is the folkloric need to make sense of the tragedy as it specifically relates ot this event. Retelling this story in humor, in fear. Shock permeated throughout the school and, as this article implies, the culture following. Being ten at the time, I remember being told several jokes regarding the launch: These two stay with me:

How do we know the schoolteacher on the challenger had Dandruff? They found her head and shoulders.

What does NASA stand for? Need Another Seven Astronaunts.

This article describing beliefs about this event two decades ago, doesn't suprise me. Like 9/11 and JFK's assination there is something about this event for those of us experienced, a quite peculiar something. These myths in this article and the jokes and stories and general challengerlore that was generated speak to the need to make a strange sense of such an unfanthonable event. Why was this specifically so unfanthomable? That talks to the zeitgeist, I think.

Re:Live at school (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14577214)


How do we know the schoolteacher on the challenger had Dandruff? They found her head and shoulders.

What does NASA stand for? Need Another Seven Astronaunts.


LOLZ!!!

Re:Live at school (0, Offtopic)

Aranth Brainfire (905606) | more than 8 years ago | (#14577216)

I missed the Challenger broadcast... stayed home sick from school on september 11th 2001 though... woke up to see New York blowing up, shocked the hell out of me. First thing I thought as I saw the news broadcast was we were being bombed by some foreign nation... still wasn't really able to speak for a long time.

Definitely not the best thing to wake up to.

Re:Live at school (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14577224)

Sure all those 7 things are myths. And Oceania has always been at war with Eastasia.

Re:Live at school (1)

aniceyoungman (898635) | more than 8 years ago | (#14577330)

Yes, thats double ungood...

I heard that... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14577016)

...the last thing to go through the mind of the bloke in the pilot's seat was part of the flight console.

live at school? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14577029)

did anyone here see it live on TV at school?

seeing that would be kind of horrible.

Re:live at school? (3, Interesting)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | more than 8 years ago | (#14577053)

"did anyone here see it live on TV at school?"

Not precisely. I was home sick that day. I was watching Battlestar Galactica on TV when they broke with urgent news. I was 6 at the time. That was the first time I had ever seen 'breaking news' and I remember being stunned by it. I remember seeing pictures of a parachute or something falling down from the sky. Even two days later I thought the astronauts might still be alive underwater or something. A couple years later, I had to build one of those shoe-box scenes of the ocean floor for an elementary school class. I found the remains of an old toy shuttle I had, so I put it in there thinking it'd be an interesting detail. I didn't understand until much later why my teacher thought I was sick-minded.

Re:live at school? (4, Funny)

TallMatthew (919136) | more than 8 years ago | (#14577083)

seeing that would be kind of horrible.

Not as horrible as those nasty little squares of pizza they served that day.

Yuck.

Musings upon flamebaiting. (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14577181)

heh. I love how this is moderated "flamebait". Like the post is designed for people who like those disgusting square pizzas is going to be like, "HEY! ASSHOLE, DON'T YOU FUCKING TALK ABOUT MY PIZZA LIKE THAT." People really should read moderator guidelines.

Re:live at school? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14577293)

Now that I've spent my mod points just let me say:

"HEY! ASSHOLE, DON'T YOU FUCKING TALK ABOUT MY PIZZA LIKE THAT."

-superego

Naq juvyr V'z ng vg whfg yrg zr fnl gung V qb abg, va nal jnl, funcr, be sbez nccerpvngr gur ynzrarff svygre nggrzcgvat gb vagresrer jvgu gur pncvgnyvmngvba bs zl gebyy.

Re:live at school? (1)

jpnews (647965) | more than 8 years ago | (#14577119)

Yup. 7th grade, Texas history class. Living in Houston at the time might have been a contributing factor.

Re:live at school? (1)

JustBen (216031) | more than 8 years ago | (#14577256)

I remember seeing it. They made a big deal about it for weeks before hand. One of the girls in my grade had an uncle that was an astronaut and it was the first teacher in space. We had experiments planed that had something to do with some lesson that was going to be taught from space. There were not enough TV's for ever class room so there were two classes per room and they had us all sitting Indian style on the floor. When it blew up the teachers looked a little shocked and they abruptly turned off the TV and then we all went to an extra long recess. I honestly can say I had no idea what happened at the time. The next day the principal and the school nurse had a special assembly in the auditorium talking about the tragedy and bravery or something like that. At that time I had no clue what death was.

Re:live at school? (1)

darkstar2a (546635) | more than 8 years ago | (#14577282)

I was a senior in high school (Capital High in Boise, ID), and I was in Space Science class as my school had the fortune of having a Planetarium (seriously) so we had made special arrangements to be out of our next class to watch the launch (The Alternate teacher, Barbara Morgan, was from Idaho as well).

The biggest thing I remember is everyone being confused. We didn't know what happened and it was very quiet as we were waiting for someone to explain.

I've seen 'footage' since then where the newscaster was 'instantly' making exclamations about the tragedy when it happened, but watching it live, it did not happen that way. (or at least not on the schools feed).

I'm glad in one way that 'I was there' because it has very much been distorted by both the media and the retelling. Even 10 years ago when they were commemorating that anniversary I was scratching my head wondering how people were so confused.

Makes me wonder about a LOT of our history.

Re:live at school? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14577329)

> live at school?

No, I live in a house.

Mythbusters (2, Insightful)

NieKinNL (690492) | more than 8 years ago | (#14577032)

This is a case for the mythbusters, obviously. I think Kari would do nicely for this one, or well, any myth for that matter..)

Story not appreciated (-1, Offtopic)

Toby The Economist (811138) | more than 8 years ago | (#14577039)

Yeah, I could have done without seeing this story.

The fate of the crew was just awful.

Being gratitously reminded of it is not appreciated.

Selective outrage? (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14577082)

Today, in every mid-size town, more people will die in traffic accidents than got killed in the Shuttle. Today, in most counties, more people will be murdered than got killed in the Shuttle.


Today, more people will choke on a marshmellow and die than got killed in the Shuttle


Yes, people died and they should have lived. So do all the other that die today. Are they not as worthy to remember? At least the astronauts did something to further mankind.

Re:Story not appreciated (4, Insightful)

prockcore (543967) | more than 8 years ago | (#14577084)

Being gratitously reminded of it is not appreciated.

It's not gratuitous. It's the 20th aniversary, and it is important to make sure that history is as accurate as possible.

Re:Story not appreciated (5, Interesting)

Jaruzel (804522) | more than 8 years ago | (#14577210)

Agreed, in this day and age of revisionist historians employed by our governments around the globe, who's sole job it is to re-write history in the favour of the encumbant politicions, it is VERY important that what actually happened during a pivotal event is recorded and re-told correctly. If we brush over the facts, how will we know how to stop it happening again ?

One of the positive things about the Internet, is it's ability to give everyone a voice. I still have enough faith in the world, that those who what to do the right thing easily outnumber those that dont. Concepts like Wikipedia help to preserve the real facts of events because so many people have a vested interest in keeping the articles they contribute to error-free. Information is power, and the governments of the world don't understand that they no longer control the information flow.

When something tragic happens the independent blogporters outnumber the employed reporters 10 to 1, agreggating those blogports will yield a more accurate and complete dissection of the event than any commercial newsfeeds can or want to provide.

Reading through the Myths in the article I was astounded under Myth #2 to discover that TV companies dubbed in an explosion sound! We can no longer trust what the news shows us.

Paranoid, me? Never.

-Jar.

Guess History is not important (5, Insightful)

dreadlord76 (562584) | more than 8 years ago | (#14577095)

>>Yeah, I could have done without seeing this story.
>>
>>The fate of the crew was just awful.
>>
>>Being gratitously reminded of it is not appreciated.


The Genocide was Awful. So many Jews died
The rape of Nanjing was Awful. So many Chinese were killed.
The Bombing of Hiroshima was awful.

Please don't mention them or print stories about them. We don't need to be reminded of them, or learn from them, to prevent repeating of our earlier mistakes.

Re:Story not appreciated (3, Insightful)

mumblestheclown (569987) | more than 8 years ago | (#14577097)

The fate of the crew was just awful.

Not any worse (and in fact, probably much "better") than many airline disasters, including TWA800, Alaska 261, and a litany of others.

Re:Story not appreciated (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14577140)

Going "LALALALALALALALA I can't hear you!" doesn't fix it. Were you on the flight? Do you know anybody on the flight? No? Shut up then.

Do you not want to be reminded of the numerous wars? You might want to try shoving your head up your ass a little further and keeping away from slashdot since you're obviously a trolling retard.

Re:Story not appreciated (0, Flamebait)

neveragain4181 (800519) | more than 8 years ago | (#14577146)

Hey - you should check out www.google.cn [google.cn]

They do a pretty good job in making sure nothing too traumatic gets through...

Oh, well sometimes [google.cn] ...

N/A

Re:Story not appreciated (1)

Beryllium Sphere(tm) (193358) | more than 8 years ago | (#14577226)

Everyone involved in engineering work that matters should study this disaster and burn the lessons [msn.com] into their souls.

Spaceflight is dangerous, so what (-1, Flamebait)

Oldsmobile (930596) | more than 8 years ago | (#14577048)

Wow, I'm amazed, strapping two sticks of dynamite between a tank of increadibly flammable gasses might end up in disaster?

These astronauts were accepting a risk and the whole thing was a bummer, but more people die getting hit by cars a day than being strapped on dangerous rockets.

The reason it was such a big deal was the media and politicians using it to full propaganda value. Nothing like a little shared greaf to bring the nation together. I should remind you, that America in the 1980's had lots of social conflict lying just below the surface.

Re:Spaceflight is dangerous, so what (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14577116)

Out of curiosity did you actually read the article?

Quoth the article:

"Claims that the disaster was the unavoidable price to be paid for pioneering a new frontier were self-serving rationalizations on the part of those responsible for incompetent engineering management -- the disaster should have been avoidable. NASA managers made a bad call for the launch decision, and engineers who had qualms about the O-rings were bullied or bamboozled into acquiescence. The skeptics' argument that launching with record cold temperatures is valid, but it probably was not argued as persuasively as it might have been, in hindsight. If launched on a warmer day, with gentler high-altitude winds, there's every reason to suppose the flight would have been successful and the troublesome seal design (which already had the attention of designers) would have been modified at a pace that turned out to have been far too leisurely."

Re:Spaceflight is dangerous, so what (1)

Oldsmobile (930596) | more than 8 years ago | (#14577238)

So your point is, that spaceflight is 100% safe dispite the Challenger (or any other) accident?

Umm, I don't get it.

Re:Spaceflight is dangerous, so what (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14577131)

"Wow, I'm amazed, strapping two sticks of dynamite between a tank of increadibly flammable gasses might end up in disaster?"
fact 2: The shuttle did not explode in the common definition of that word.

"These astronauts were accepting a risk and the whole thing was a bummer"
myth
fact 4: The design of the booster, while possessing flaws subject to improvement, was neither especially dangerous if operated properly
fact 7: Claims that the disaster was the unavoidable price to be paid for pioneering a new frontier were self-serving rationalizations on the part of those responsible for incompetent engineering management -- the disaster should have been avoidable.

RTFA article next time you post an "insightful" comment.

Re:Spaceflight is dangerous, so what (4, Insightful)

Alioth (221270) | more than 8 years ago | (#14577235)

"More people die getting hit by cars a day..." is a particularly pointless comparison: hundreds of millions travel by car every day, whereas only a handful of astronauts fly per year.

The Space Shuttle is not safe by any stretch of imagination: so far, the track record is an average of one total loss for every 50 flights. (Would anyone ever drive if there was one fatal car accident for every 50 car journeys, or would anyone ever fly if an airliner went down on average once per 50 flights?)

We're better than that, is what. (1)

infernow (529374) | more than 8 years ago | (#14577242)

Wow, I'm amazed, strapping two sticks of dynamite between a tank of increadibly flammable gasses might end up in disaster?

Yes, space flight is dangerous.
Yes, astronauts accept these inherent dangers when they fly.

That doesn't make the fact that Challenger blew up because of a KNOWN, RESOLVABLE DESIGN PROBLEM any less damning.

Sure, you can be sarcastic and explain it away as just being "one of the many dangers of space flight", but that's outright defiance of fact, and the exact sort of thinking that got seven people needlessly killed 20 years ago.

The O-rings on the SRBs didn't seal properly in weather as cold as the day Challenger was launched, and some of the people at NASA at the time knew this. They could have halted missions to find a new material that would work in the cold, or they could have just scrubbed the launch until it was a bit warmer.

Of course we all know that they did neither of these things. They assumed everything would work like it's "supposed to", and that they would once again narrowly avoid disaster. But, just as the design engineers feared they might, the O-rings failed to seal, and the shuttle exploded in the air. Any warnings that tried to make their way up the managerial hierarchy were ultimately ignored, much to the detriment of everyone.

The reason it was/is "such a big deal" is that the disaster could have been easily prevented. No amount of political backpedaling, finger-pointing, or media spin will change that.

say what? (4, Insightful)

Quadraginta (902985) | more than 8 years ago | (#14577263)

I should remind you, that America in the 1980's had lots of social conflict lying just below the surface.

It did? Gosh, I don't remember that. And I'm old enough to have voted for Reagan. Twice.

Re:Spaceflight is dangerous, so what (4, Insightful)

Archibald Buttle (536586) | more than 8 years ago | (#14577294)

This comment is a great example of what is wrong with Slashdot's moderation system. As I write this the parent comment has a +5 insightful score - a comment that is clearly written by somebody who has not read the article and has no knowledge of the subject.

Had the poster had a knowledge of the Challenger disaster they should know that the problem was caused by an O-ring failure due to the temperature at launch being significantly below the designed operating temperature of said O-ring. The "two sticks of dynamite between a tank of incredibly flammable gasses" comment is childish at best, but really just demonstrates a lack of understanding. That kind of launch configuration has been used successfully before and since.

It is completely irrelevant to comment that more people die by getting hit by cars than rockets, and making such a comparison shows a clear lack of insight.

It was a big deal because it was a big screw-up - not so much as a distraction from "social conflict", although it will inevitably had some distracting effect and been exploited for that by the media and politicians as all such events are. The real issue and lesson is that NASA had systematic problems that meant that the engineers who knew there was a massive risk of mission failure were ignored. This was all exposed in the Challenger investigation - most clearly by the investigations of Richard Feynman.

This +5 comment is exactly why I want to be able to browse at +10.

Re:Spaceflight is dangerous, so what (1)

jschrod (172610) | more than 8 years ago | (#14577312)

RTFA. Or, read the even better article by the same author that is linked at the end: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/6872105/ [msn.com]

There more insightful detail on his view and the problems are described. The author accepts that space flight is inherent dangerous -- he works or worked at NASA and seems to know what he's writing about. Therefore this engineering area calls for special attention to safety. And the managers routinely scoffed off engineers who brought up avoidable risks: "The engineers were challenged to prove it was NOT safe to launch, and they had no data to do so." (page 3 of the article above.) The same was said for the Columbia disaster.

So the default at NASA is to err on the dangerous side, and not on the safe side. The default is to override engineer's concerns, to "put off the engineering hat and put on the management hat". That's what the story is about, and that's what should be of relevance for the /. audience.

How widespread are these myths? (2, Interesting)

dangitman (862676) | more than 8 years ago | (#14577049)

Sounds like a lot of fuss over things that I haven't heard. I don't recall anyone claiming that the accident was inevitable, or that the astronauts would have died instantly.

As to whether it was "live" when I watched it - I have never claimed this - but I was a young schoolkid at the time, so I wouldn't have really been aware if it was or not. I also don't know of people going around claiming they saw it live as some sort of badge of honour. As for "exploded" - that's fairly semantic. For example, you have "exploded" views in technical illustration - that doesn't mean that the object was actually detonated to make the drawing. "Explosion" often refers to any rapid break-up, whether a "traditional explosion" or not.

Re:How widespread are these myths? (1)

jpnews (647965) | more than 8 years ago | (#14577106)

Right- but there were 7 astronauts, so there have to be 7 myths. DUHH!

Re:How widespread are these myths? (5, Interesting)

georgewilliamherbert (211790) | more than 8 years ago | (#14577126)

The myths are fairly common. Newcomers post them to space related websites and newsgroups and talk about them on talk shows and such all the time.

Regarding exploded, I have to disagree. Cars don't explode in accidents, though they often get pretty badly mangled and have pieces break off. It's reasonable to say that a lot of things which aren't detonations are explosions... a pressurized cannister of gas say, if it has a structural failure... or a boiler. But Challenger wasn't pushed apart by any sort of internal force. It pitched up rapidly at twice the speed of sound, and like any airplane suddenly tragically flown out to several times its structural design margins, broke into pieces.

It's particularly hard to make this point as what people saw as an explosion... the fireball... in fact had minimal overpressure and thermal density, and essentially didn't damage either the pieces of the Shuttle (which had already broken up) or the solid boosters. People always think that the fireball caused, or somehow was related to, the deaths. It was completely unrelated. If the external tank had been filled with perfectly inert water, and the shuttle came up off the stack as it did, the breakup of Challenger and eventual deaths of the astronauts would have been exactly the same.

You may think it's nitpicking, but it often matters for people to understand exactly which part of something caused deaths or destruction. Katrina didn't devastate New Orleans because it was a Cat 5 storm; Katrina pulled in a water surge which damaged levees which flooded the city. If there had been no Katrina, and random liquefaction caused a levee failure on a clear day without a storm in sight, New Orleans would have been just as badly damaged. That's not true for a lot of surrounding areas though, where Katrina floodwaters from the storm surge did directly cause the damage, and the New Orleans levee breaks later were irellevant.

I'm designing manned spacecraft now, and the details of what can go wrong during launch, in space, and during reentry matter. There are a lot of things which can go wrong and may look spectacularly bad, but shouldn't kill the crew. I am more concerned about the ones which could kill the crew, some of which don't look all that dangerous to the naked eye. Soyuz 10's crew died because one small valve failed and let all the air out as the capsule was coming down. Columbia's crew died because small pieces of foam falling off tanks got to be routine, and eventually after 100 missions a big one fell off and hit probably the single worst place on the whole Orbiter.

composite aging? (5, Insightful)

Quadraginta (902985) | more than 8 years ago | (#14577337)

Columbia's crew died because small pieces of foam falling off tanks got to be routine, and eventually after 100 missions a big one fell off...

You know, I've always wondered what part composite aging might have played. Materials scientists tend to know little about how composite materials like the RCC panels age, especially in the harsh environment they had to endure -- radiation, violent temperature swings, et cetera -- and especially over the 20 years or so between Columbia's fabrication and the accident. Plus, unlike metals, composites are a bit notorious for showing no outward signs at all that they are about to fail, for looking perfectly sound even when they are so rotten that they'll suddenly and catastrophically fail under stresses they easily stood before.

Here [afa.org] for example is a story about some of the problems the USAF is running into now with the F-15 wing, which is composite and approaching 20 years old in many aircraft, e.g. the linked article notes an F-15 coming apart midflight in 2003 because of a sudden failure of the wing, and yet routine inspections every 200 hours had shown no signs of incipient failure.

If Columbia's accident was the result of this kind of failure, it's a lot harder to blame the designers, engineers, and even management for failing to prevent it -- because it involved the emergence without any warning of a completely unforeseeable materials failure mode. Essentially, the impact of the foam was a trivial hazard, easily withstood by the airframe for almost all of the 20 years Columbia flew. And then, by incredibly bad luck, the aging of the RCC material made the stuff just suddenly become ridiculously fragile, to the point where an oversize bird turd could crack it. And it did so with no outward signs of weakness at all.

That would make Columbia's accident pretty much a pure act of God, beyond the ability of mortal men to foresee and prevent. Indeed, I think one of the lessons of Columbia should probably be that these things still happen, that materials and systems can fail in totally unforeseen ways, even with the best engineering talent and the best management will in the world.

Re:How widespread are these myths? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14577223)

the astronauts would have died instantly.

I'm willing to bet they died instantly.

You tend to when you hit the ground at over 200mph

Re:How widespread are these myths? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14577240)

> Sounds like a lot of fuss over things that I haven't heard.

Exactly. How about myth #8 - that anyone gives a shit about it this many years later.

Re:Explosion (5, Interesting)

Vintermann (400722) | more than 8 years ago | (#14577276)

What I really noticed about this article was the claim that some TV-companies added an explosion sound to the footage. Doctoring footage and images: I've seen so many examples of newspaper images that were so similar, I've often wondered if news agencies don't pull up photoshop to make the image a little more illustrative.
There always seems to be a russian woman walking past a huge poster of Putin, an iraqi woman walking past a huge poster of Saddam, a venezuelan woman walking past a huge picture of Chavez. And a picture of a white dove with a palestinian demonstration in the background. They are both in focus... how did the photographer get them to stand still? And I don't think you can trust that demonstrators really held up the posters they did. Far too often, it seems that the most prominent poster is held by someone who is not in the image. Remember the affair when a parody image of "Evil Ernie" appeared in an image of bin Laden? It was claimed that the demonstrator had done an image search on the net and accidentaly downloaded the parody image, but if he made that sign, wouldn't he have noticed that bizarre puppet in the backgound?! I think it more likely that someone at reuters or AP decided that the image wasn't illustrative enough, and did the negligent image search
So now I see a major news outlet claiming that such "illustrative" manipulation occurs, perhaps I'm not paranoid, after all.

Re:Explosion (1)

Threni (635302) | more than 8 years ago | (#14577320)

> And a picture of a white dove with a palestinian demonstration in the background. They are
> both in focus... how did the photographer get them to stand still?

Why would the photographer need them to stand still? Do you know how fast the shutters of a camera are? I've taken photos out of the back of a moving tuk tuk in Thailand at a shutter speed of 1/2000 of a second and got perfect pictures, and that's with a £250 camera - I think professional photographers are using slightly better equipment.

> Remember the affair when a parody image of "Evil Ernie" appeared in an image of bin Laden? It
> was claimed that the demonstrator had done an image search on the net and accidentaly
> downloaded the parody image, but if he made that sign, wouldn't he have noticed that bizarre
> puppet in the backgound? I think it more likely that someone at reuters or AP decided that the
> image wasn't illustrative enough, and did the negligent image search

Wasn't illustrative enough of what? What's a "negligent image search"? Are you suggesting that Reuters and AP added them to all the frames of it that they covered? Why?

Re:How widespread are these myths? (1)

isotpist (857411) | more than 8 years ago | (#14577338)

Exactly, these sound more like straw men made up to be rebuked than common myths.
If people didn't see it live then they saw it two minutes later when the networks switched back (though I think I did see it live, Christa McCauliffe was a BIG DEAL in New England).

Nitpicking (2, Insightful)

bclark (858016) | more than 8 years ago | (#14577052)

The article says that people who claim to remember seeing it live didn't actually see it live, because most networks just showed a tape replay after cutting away. So technically it's not live, but still, most of these people saw the events just after they happened. It also says that the shuttle didn't explode, but then describes what happened as a huge fireball. I can see how people might describe it as an explosion. So the crew may not have died instantly, but they were probably unconscious until the cabin fell back to the Earth, so it doesn't make too much of a difference to them or to anyone. I gave up reading at this point, but there don't seem to be any major revelations. It was a tragedy, and the important lessons learned from the loss of lives are what I hope live on.

Re:Nitpicking (1)

obii (196264) | more than 8 years ago | (#14577088)

I agree with you. What's the fuss about a shuttle not exploding when there obviously is an explosion?

And I also agree with a previous poster stating that space travel is a risky business and casualties occur. I never understood the publicity made about breaking Space Shuttles.

Just my 2, probably a bit controversial to common opinion, but mine none the less.

Re:Nitpicking (1)

hw2084 (938560) | more than 8 years ago | (#14577144)

I never understood the publicity made about breaking Space Shuttles.

I think part of the reason might be residue from the cold war. The space race kind of became this thing to project patriotism onto since we didn't want to nuke the planet to death. The space program is a symbol of what the best in the world can accomplish. When there's a disaster like Challenger, besides it being a gruesome way to die for some very brave people, it shows how fallible the best and brightest of our country are.

I guess I was one of the few, and Canadian no less (5, Interesting)

cerebis (560975) | more than 8 years ago | (#14577057)

I watched the Challenger launch with passive disinterest in the library of my junior highschool.

The librarian had rolled out one of the ubiquitous "TV + giant VCR" stands and parked it in the middle of the reading area. For a librarian that typically insisted on a completely quiet room, this was unusual. I suppose the novelty of the teacher going into space prompted her decision.

Anyway, that unusual situation was enough for me to watch the launch, motivated by the taboo feeling of watching TV in the otherwise serenely quiet library and being a bit of a space nut. Despite that and to corroborate the claim in the article, I was probably one of only a few people actually paying attention to it, as most other students were taking the situation as a license to talk to eachother.

I clearly remember watching it desintergate, fanning out into a cloud -- and my mind not being able to fully comprehend what was happening. I might have even vocalized, but I can only remember the visuals. It seemed to take forever for other people to catch on to what had happened.

It was breaking news in Australia.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14577188)

I was only 3 and a half years old.. I remember watching the TV with my mum and it came on as breaking news in Australia. I didn't understand exactly what was happening, but I knew it wasn't good.

Myth about the myth (4, Interesting)

robla (4860) | more than 8 years ago | (#14577062)

Few people actually saw what happened live on television. The flight occurred during the early years of cable news, and although CNN was indeed carrying the launch when the shuttle was destroyed, all major broadcast stations had cut away -- only to quickly return with taped relays.

I admit I wasn't watching (I was off at school), but my mom was watching the Today show (Pacific Timezone) when it happened, and that's not consistent with how she told it. She said that it was a reasonably routine "let's cut away to Florida, where the first teacher in space is about to launch". She saw the "explosion" (or whatever actually happened), totally sans commentary. Then things went black, and eventually, some stunned newscasters came on.

Now, it may be that other timezones weren't running news shows, and so they didn't break coverage, but at least on the PST feed of Today, they showed it live.

Re:Myth about the myth (1)

Oldsmobile (930596) | more than 8 years ago | (#14577091)

I actually remembered watching it live, and we did have CNN on cable no less. So it should have been possible. But I asked my dad about it and he said I hadn't seen it. So all the coverage since and me being young at the time messed things up in my head.

I'd say myth is busted.

Re:Myth about the myth (1)

Phil Karn (14620) | more than 8 years ago | (#14577272)

I didn't realize until this thread just how young most Slashdotters must be. I was already 8 years into my engineering career when Challenger failed. I'd already seen a lot of shuttle launches (including one in person at KSC, STS-9 in 1983), but I still couldn't get enough of them. I knew that the "regular" networks weren't carrying it, so I couldn't count on seeing it at work. So I stayed home that morning and watched it live on CNN.

I guess that does put me in a minority, and as those of you who also watched it live can agree, it was a very different experience than seeing it only after being told that something horrible had happened. I don't remember much after that except making a bunch of phone calls and staring at the TV.

I have no idea how many dozen more times I saw it at work that afternoon. It was a bad day.

Re:Myth about the myth (1)

BarryNorton (778694) | more than 8 years ago | (#14577341)

I didn't realize until this thread just how young most Slashdotters must be
I was eight and, not to be callous, but it didn't mean that much to me.

The 1984 Olympics were a big deal to me.

A space shuttle? 'Fine, we've had those since before I can remember...'

It's exploded? 'That's a shame, but there are far fewer people than just died on that aeroplane [wikipedia.org] .'

Not that I'm saying I actually said this (or consciously made such a connection), but that was pretty much my attitude (and, I'm sorry, still is).

Validity to the article... (1)

peeon (743159) | more than 8 years ago | (#14577069)

"NBC News space analyst James Oberg spent 22 years at NASA's Johnson Space Center as a Mission Control operator and an orbital designer."

Re:Validity to the article... (1)

Ariane 6 (248505) | more than 8 years ago | (#14577286)

He's also a rather regular contributor to sci.space.policy, FWIW

Few people? (2, Interesting)

steveshaw (690806) | more than 8 years ago | (#14577073)

The "few people" statement seems like an awfully off-the-cuff remark with no facts to back it up. As he says, "CNN was indeed carrying the launch when the shuttle was destroyed...." CNN wasn't some local Wayne's World cable access channel. It started in 1980 and by 1985 was a major player in the news world. Most schools had it and were probably watching it due to the "first teacher in space" angle.

Oh.... (0, Flamebait)

slumpy (304072) | more than 8 years ago | (#14577085)

...So they DIDN'T find her Head 'n Shoulders on the beach

Feynman's report (5, Informative)

19061969 (939279) | more than 8 years ago | (#14577101)

Obligatory link to Richard Feynman's [feynmanonline.com] report on the disaster [fotuva.org] .

The Challenger disaster was quite shocking, even more so when I realised that the crew were probably alive (if not conscious) all the way until their capsule hit the ground. It's incredible that something could survive that disintegration but very sad that there was no way to get the capsule safely back to earth.

Richard Feynman's report is a fantastically clear and lucid account of his opinions. The man was one of the greatest communicators of science, and after reading this, you will see why. The most astonishing bit is that he discusses some less than simple things in such a way as to make them easily understood. It's a model of clarity, and I recommend it.

Most interesting report (5, Informative)

gowen (141411) | more than 8 years ago | (#14577104)

The most fascinating report on the Challenger disaster remains Richard Feynman's dissent on the official line of the Rogers Report (on whose committee he served). Read it here [ralentz.com] .
"If a reasonable launch schedule is to be maintained, engineering often cannot be done fast enough to keep up with the expectations of originally conservative certification criteria designed to guarantee a very safe vehicle. In these situations, subtly, and often with apparently logical arguments, the criteria are altered so that flights may still be certified in time. They therefore fly in a relatively unsafe condition, with a chance of failure of the order of a percent (it is difficult to be more accurate).

Official management, on the other hand, claims to believe the probability of failure is a thousand times less. One reason for this may be an attempt to assure the government of NASA perfection and success in order to ensure the supply of funds. The other may be that they sincerely believed it to be true, demonstrating an almost incredible lack of communication between themselves and their working engineers."
Whether you consider that "political interference" is a different matter.

No explosion? (3, Insightful)

Vellmont (569020) | more than 8 years ago | (#14577111)

What kind of strange definition of explosion does this guy have?

the shuttle's fuel tank tore apart, spilling liquid oxygen and hydrogen which formed a huge fireball at an altitude of 46,000 ft.

That kind of sounds like an explosion to me. Maybe to a demolitions expert it doesn't meet some specialized technical definition of "explosion", but I don't see how that's really relavent. Talking about how the actual orbiter didn't explode is really starting to split hairs here.

Re:No explosion? (1)

cablepokerface (718716) | more than 8 years ago | (#14577129)

I learned in high school once that an explosion is nothing more then something burning really fast. So I agree with you.

Re:No explosion? (1)

Gordonjcp (186804) | more than 8 years ago | (#14577204)

I learned in high school once that an explosion is nothing more then something burning really fast. So I agree with you.

No, that's just burning really fast. To be an explosion it has to be contained, until the pressure builds up.

Re:No explosion? (1)

jcr (53032) | more than 8 years ago | (#14577229)

To be an explosion it has to be contained, until the pressure builds up.

Technically, no. Ever heard of fuel-air explosions?

For it to be an explosion, there has to be a detonation, which is ignition resulting from a shock wave through a mixture of fuel and oxidant. If the LOX and Hydrogen were mixed before ignition, then you could have had an explosion without confinement.

-jcr

Re:No explosion? (4, Interesting)

georgewilliamherbert (211790) | more than 8 years ago | (#14577154)

That kind of sounds like an explosion to me. Maybe to a demolitions expert it doesn't meet some specialized technical definition of "explosion", but I don't see how that's really relavent. Talking about how the actual orbiter didn't explode is really starting to split hairs here.
1) Before the propellants had completely spilled, and long before (in terms of how fast the accident happened) they ignited and the visible fireball started, Challenger had already pitched up and immediately broken up. The fireball happened around the pieces of the orbiter after it broke up, and had nothing to do with the breakup happening.

2) The fireball had minimal pressure and a low enough temperature that it did not significantly damage either the already broken up pieces of the orbiter (no burn damage or crush damage from the fireball) or the solid rocket boosters.

If someone waved an industrial sized propane torch at you for one second, the kind they use to dry paint rapidly, you'd get mildly burned but it wouldn't kill you. If you were sitting inside your car when it was waved at you from outside, you wouldn't notice, unless it bubbled the paint a bit.

Not everything that looks big and bright and explosion-like kills and destroys everything inside it. I personally survived a small gas vapor fire where my body was essentially entirely inside the fireball, with only a few burnt hairs and what was functionally no worse than a bad sunburn on the parts of my skin not covered by clothing, and the clothes didn't catch on fire. I really don't recommend you try it yourself, but it won't kill you.

Re:No explosion? (1)

Vellmont (569020) | more than 8 years ago | (#14577340)

And again you're talking about an explosion from a technical perspective. Within that context you're correct. But for everyone else in the world a big fireball is an explosion. Since this article wasn't written for a trade journal I think the rather untechnical description is perfectly applicable here. Explosion isn't a word who's definition is confined to people who work within a specialized techinical field.

explosions and fireballs are different... (1)

Silencer-7 (930802) | more than 8 years ago | (#14577156)

he's probably got the same definition as something like dictionary.com, namely, that there wasn't any violent bursting as a result of internal pressure. It wasn't burning until the tank had already broken open, which can be a big distinction for people who think that engineers don't know how to keep hydrogen and oxygen apart until the right time. A fireball is just that, a ball of fire--although it expands, sure, it doesn't really create a blast wave, blow anything apart or do much other than heat damage. It sounds like nitpicking, but mostly it's just explaining the difference for people who've seen too many movies, and think that a pool of gasoline would have the same effect as a bomb.

Re:No explosion? (5, Informative)

FireFury03 (653718) | more than 8 years ago | (#14577169)

What kind of strange definition of explosion does this guy have?

A (low) explosion is basically an over-pressure of the inside of a sealed container to the point that it breaks catestrophically. (High explosives are obviously different). That's not what happened here - the fuel tank ruptured (not caused by an explosion) and the resulting fuel spill just burnt in the air. That's really no different to if your car fuel tank ruptures and the petrol catches fire, it doesn't explode it just burns. Similarly if you set fire to gun powder in an unconfined space it just burns (quickly), it doesn't explode.

The craft then broke apart due to overpressure on the *outside* of the craft (caused by it turning broad-side in a supersonic airstream). If anything that probably constitutes an implosion, certainly not an explosion.

Re:No explosion? (1)

drphil (320469) | more than 8 years ago | (#14577326)

In common terms it may "sound" like an explosion, but this term has a strict definition in science, which is what the author of TFA was refering to.

In an explosion there is a detonation (or pressure) wave that travels from the site faster than the speed of sound - this indeed is what causes most of the damage in an explosion. I think an overpressure wave of around 1 psi will kill you or flatten a house - but I don't remember the specifics. These come from "high explosives" as a previous poster pointed out.

The Challenger was a "deflagration" which is defined as burning rapidly without generating a high pressure wave. Compounds that lead to deflagration are classified as "low explosives". Still very dangerous and destructive, but the damage is generally caused by heat (and flying objects if the deflagration was confined to a closed vessel that ruptured from the rise in pressure due to heating gases).

When a vessel is destroyed by deflagration, it generally rips open at a failure point or line. If a vessel is destroyed by explosion, it generally is obliterated into zillions of fragments (called shrapnel!)

Engineers bullied or bamboozled into acquiescence (3, Insightful)

Morgaine (4316) | more than 8 years ago | (#14577112)

>> NASA managers made a bad call for the launch decision, and engineers who had qualms about the O-rings were bullied or bamboozled into acquiescence.

That's the bit that annoyed me most.

The very idea that non-technical management can override or disregard technical advice provided by professionals in their specialist technical area is a complete travesty.

And imposing a flawed managerial direction by applying social pressures (bullying/bamboozling) to brush dissenters under the carpet just made it worse. All highly unprofessional.

I know that it's the way that business works these days, with the management thinking that it is somehow "above" the technical people who deal with the technology on which the enterprise is founded, but it's an insane model in a world that is becoming ever more technical every day.

As non-technical management becomes ever more clueless about technical issues with each passing day of technical progress, businesses who don't accept overriding technical direction at management level are treading the path towards having their own "Challanger disasters". It's a misguided approach.

Re:Engineers bullied or bamboozled into acquiescen (1)

NFNNMIDATA (449069) | more than 8 years ago | (#14577241)

I don't want to come off as being against your post, because I totally agree, but I wonder if the O-rings thing wasn't just another in a long list of things the engineers were complaining about (of varying importance)... Engineers are certainly the kind to make known all their qualms about anything, and presented with a roomful of engineers I am sure a lot of managers would be quick to gloss over most of their complaints. Add to that the fact that this would only fail under certain circumstances and you can see how it falls down the list. I see it happen all the time in the software world. And then of course as soon as you agree to "let it slide for now", that certain circumstance is guaranteed to occur. That's gotta be some kind of Murphy's Law of engineering...

Re:Engineers bullied or bamboozled into acquiescen (1)

johnny cashed (590023) | more than 8 years ago | (#14577257)

I don't know if you can say that NASA management was non-technical. They weren't experts on the solid rocket boosters, but typical NASA management is staffed by engineers who have worked their way up. They were technical people at one time. There are only so many ways for engineers at NASA to move up the payscale. You typically move up into management positions and manage other engineers. I'm not excusing their bad decisions, and maybe I'm misconstruing your statement. I'm just saying that a lot of managers at NASA have a technical background. This doesn't make them experts on certain details of programs, but it might have contributed in their own way to the poor decisions. A manager with a non-technical background might have been more inclined to listen to lower echelons, and formed a decision based on expert opinion. It is possible to construe this as upper management, with their own engineering (read: technical) background, disregarded the experts for precisely that reason. They may have felt that because the knew the issues, that their judgement was sound. Bad call, yes. They should have listened to the Thoikol engineers, yes. Damn shame all around.

NASA's Day of Remembrance (4, Interesting)

FleaPlus (6935) | more than 8 years ago | (#14577115)

It should be noted that this past Thursday was NASA's Day of Remembrance [nasa.gov] . This is in honor of the astronauts who died in all three of America's space accidents -- Apollo I, Challenger, and Columbia -- which all occurred around the last week of January (January 27 - February 1). There's a commemorative page [nasa.gov] on NASA's site.

That said, I look forward to the day when a spacecraft accident is no more notable than an automobile or airplane accident. The best way to honor our lost astronauts is to make space travel more routine, allowing it to get safer and more accessible through experience.

Dangers of Exploration (2, Interesting)

KeiichiMorisato (945464) | more than 8 years ago | (#14577136)

Throughout history, humans have taken great risks for the sake of exploration, being recorded in history, and furthering knowledge for the sake of our species. From walking beyond the boundaries of the village and exploring uncharted lands, to climbing the highest peaks, to travelling across the oceans to the "new world", to diving underwater to undiscovered secrets, and to travelling into space; the risk of never returning has always been apart of these feats.

However, in this era, we cannot fathom things not being perfect. For some reason, someone is always to blame. We cannot accept the fact that space travel has lost a large amount of funding and even though ~40 years has passed since humans first landed on the moon, the technology hasn't advanced that much. As a people, we have to understand that space travel is still young and not perfected and losses will come.

Instead of trying to find blame and cutting funding for the space program. Let us continue to press on, innovate and find new methods, and most importantly, honour the people who are willing to take these risks to pave the road so that one day, we can all enjoy space travel just like how cruises across the ocean usually quite safe, and like how flight is quite safe as well.

Copied straight from Wikipedia! (3, Interesting)

d99-sbr (568719) | more than 8 years ago | (#14577137)

It's happened again! Look at the Wikipedia article [wikipedia.org] on the subject.

For example, in the second paragraph we find the ENTIRE first myth copied verbatim into the news article with no credit or references given whatsoever!

The rest seems to be original wording though, but I encourage you to dig more into this.

Re:Copied straight from Wikipedia! (5, Informative)

Daikiki (227620) | more than 8 years ago | (#14577192)

Other way around. The first paragraph of the article was copied into wikipedia in the last few hours. The article was published yesterday.

Re:Copied straight from Wikipedia! (1)

georgewilliamherbert (211790) | more than 8 years ago | (#14577202)

Dude.

The wikipedia article took that text straight from the MSNBC article. It was added by Wikipedia user Gene Nyygard, today after Jim Oberg's article came out, and has a correct reference link to the MSNBC article attributing it.

Duuuuude.

Learn to read and check references...

Re:Copied straight from Wikipedia! (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14577279)

Hurley! How did you get off that island? Can I have some of your millions? 4 8 15 16 23 42!

Does it render correctly? (1)

pe1chl (90186) | more than 8 years ago | (#14577139)

I have difficulty reading the text on Mozilla Seamonkey 1.0b
Text partly disappears under features like the author's photograph and the commercial banners.

Is it a mistake in the page's HTML or a bug in Seamonkey that I should report?
What do others see?

Re:Does it render correctly? (1)

ELProphet (909179) | more than 8 years ago | (#14577277)

Nope, no problem with your monkey. It's entirely the wonderful CSS abilities of those fine folks at MSN! I had the same problem; I could have looked at the source, but I didn't care enought. I use Firefox 1.5.x, but after your comment, I checked on IE, and hey! Same problem!

Re:Does it render correctly? (1)

Dorm41Baggins (858984) | more than 8 years ago | (#14577302)

Everything renders correctly here in both Firefox 1.5 and IE 6 at either 800x600 or 1024x768 resolutions, so it's probably a problem at your end.

Not sure I agree (4, Interesting)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 8 years ago | (#14577142)

I've read this twice today since it was on Fark about 8 hours ago and I have a problem with Mister Oberg's story.

From Encyclopedia Astronautica - http://www.astronautix.com/flights/sts51l.htm [astronautix.com]
"At this point in its trajectory, while traveling at a Mach number of 1.92 at an altitude of 46,000 feet, the Challenger was totally enveloped in the explosive burn. The Challenger's reaction control system ruptured and a hypergolic burn of its propellants occurred as it exited the oxygen-hydrogen flames. The reddish brown colors of the hypergolic fuel burn are visible on the edge of the main fireball. The Orbiter, under severe aerodynamic loads, broke into several large sections which emerged from the fireball. Separate sections that can be identified on film include the main engine/tail section with the engines still burning, one wing of the Orbiter, and the forward fuselage trailing a mass of umbilical lines pulled loose from the payload bay.
The Explosion 73 seconds after liftoff claimed crew and vehicle. Cause of explosion was determined to be an O-ring failure in right SRB. Cold weather was a contributing factor. Launch Weight: 268,829 lbs. "

From the Commission's Report

http://science.ksc.nasa.gov/shuttle/missions/51-l/ docs/rogers-commission/Chapter-3.txt [nasa.gov]

"At 73.124 seconds,. a circumferential white vapor pattern was observed blooming from the side of the External Tank bottom dome. This was the beginning of the structural failure of hydrogen tank that culminated in the entire aft dome dropping away. This released massive amounts of liquid hydrogen from the tank and created a sudden forward thrust of about 2.8 million pounds, pushing the hydrogen tank upward into the intertank structure. At about the same time, the rotating right Solid Rocket Booster impacted the intertank structure and the lower part of the liquid oxygen tank. These structures failed at 73.137 seconds as evidenced by the white vapors appearing in the intertank region.

Within milliseconds there was massive, almost explosive, burning of the hydrogen streaming from the failed tank bottom and liquid oxygen breach in the area of the intertank.

At this point in its trajectory, while traveling at a Mach number of 1.92 at an altitude of 46,000 feet, the Challenger was totally enveloped in the explosive burn. The Challenger's reaction control system ruptured and a hypergolic burn of its propellants occurred as it exited the oxygen-hydrogen flames. The reddish brown colors of the hypergolic fuel burn are visible on the edge of the main fireball. The Orbiter, under severe aerodynamic loads, broke into several large sections which emerged from the fireball. Separate sections that can be identified on film include the main engine/tail section with the engines still burning, one wing of the Orbiter, and the forward fuselage trailing a mass of umbilical lines pulled loose from the payload bay."

From Mister Oberg's story

"The shuttle did not explode in the common definition of that word. There was no shock wave, no detonation, no "bang" -- viewers on the ground just heard the roar of the engines stop as the shuttle's fuel tank tore apart, spilling liquid oxygen and hydrogen which formed a huge fireball at an altitude of 46,000 ft. (Some television documentaries later added the sound of an explosion to these images.) But both solid-fuel strap-on boosters climbed up out of the cloud, still firing and unharmed by any explosion. Challenger itself was torn apart as it was flung free of the other rocket components and turned broadside into the Mach 2 airstream. Individual propellant tanks were seen exploding -- but by then, the spacecraft was already in pieces."

The Shuttle at that time was made up of the Orbiter, a Fuel Tank and two Solid Rocket Boosters, there was an explosion, so I think Mister Oberg is wrong for saying it did not "explode in the common definition of that word". It blew up.

What I was doing... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14577151)

I was handling calls on the tylenol scare. Guy tells me, have you heard? Have I heard what? The Challenger blew up! No, I haven't heard. He goes on to tell me it was shot down by the Russians, and that the russians had poisoned his tylenol capsules. Turns out he was right. Both times.

Second thoughts indeed! (1)

ami-in-hamburg (917802) | more than 8 years ago | (#14577160)

I was at the Cleveland MEPS center waiting to take my oath of enlistment in the Army watching CNN Live in the waiting room.

When the shuttle exploded, or disintegrated, whichever, I definitely had second thoughts.

As it turns out, a patriotic wave swept over me and I enlisted anyway. Just over 3 years later I was on the East/West German border when they decided to open the gates without warning. No, the wall being disassembled in Berlin was not the opening of the East. The actual border was opened several days prior to Berlin.

This sounds like a job for... (0, Redundant)

cciRRus (889392) | more than 8 years ago | (#14577165)

The Myth Busters!

Classic Jr High joke told after the disaster (-1, Flamebait)

t0qer (230538) | more than 8 years ago | (#14577166)

What was the last thing to go through Christa McAuliffe head?

The Control Panel!

Thank you, thank you i'll be here every night this week.

8th myth (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14577171)

That the 7 myths are particularly prevalent.

Maybe it's just that I got most of my information about Challenger from Tufte.

Sorry, but almost every point .... (0, Troll)

OneSmartFellow (716217) | more than 8 years ago | (#14577176)

made in this article is either misleading or incorrect

Few people actually saw the Challenger tragedy unfold live on television.

Surely everyone who was watching the launch on TV saw the tragedy unfold. The number of people who did observe this, numbers in the high hundreds of thousands at least; that hardly qualifies as few, regardless of the unsubstantiated assertion the all major broadcast stations had cut away

The shuttle did not explode in the common definition of that word.

I don't know what the author thinks the common definition of explode is, but a quick look on Wiktionary shows it to have as one common meaning to destroy violently or abruptly which is certainly what happened to the shuttle. Furthermore, it is semantics to argue about the 'challenger' exploding versus the shuttle with booster and fuel tank.

The flight, and the astronauts' lives, did not end at that point, 73 seconds after launch.

Again we have semantics being put forth as fact. Most people would find little discrepancy between a person being subjected to violent trauma, going unconscious or into extreme shock, and dying within a minute and dying instantly. Nothing happens instantly anyway.

The design of the booster, while possessing flaws subject to improvement, was neither especially dangerous if operated properly, nor the result of political interference.

This statement is complete poppy-cock. Any rational person would recognise the inherent danger in strapping themselves to the side of an enormous tank of liquid oxygen and lighting it.

Replacement of the original asbestos-bearing putty in the booster seals was unrelated to the failure.

unrelated? surely this is the wrong word to use for a part that has been proven by more than one panel of highly respected scientists to be inherently flawed.

There were pressures on the flight schedule, but none of any recognizable political origin.

This is simply delusional, and requires no further comment

Claims that the disaster was the unavoidable price to be paid for pioneering a new frontier were self-serving rationalizations on the part of those responsible for incompetent engineering management -- the disaster should have been avoidable.

It is difficult to know where to start with this statement. Aside from a criticism of management alongside a discussion of the inherent dangers of exploration, there are too many other mixed issues in this argument to make a sensible attack upon it, other than it is ill constructed.

Re:Sorry, but almost every point .... (5, Informative)

georgewilliamherbert (211790) | more than 8 years ago | (#14577264)

Again we have semantics being put forth as fact. Most people would find little discrepancy between a person being subjected to violent trauma, going unconscious or into extreme shock, and dying within a minute and dying instantly. Nothing happens instantly anyway.
The crew were not subjected to particularly violent trauma from the breakup. Nor did the breakup knock them unconscious. All evidence available to us indicates that the cabin was generally intact, didn't get torn apart, wouldn't have tumbled violently enough to cause serious injury to properly strapped in seated astronauts. They went unconscious, we presume, because it had been damaged enough that the air leaked out, and they were at 65,000 feet by the time they started back down again, and you pass out if you breathe air at 65,000 foot pressure levels.

We don't know if everyone eventually passed out; the emergency air packs they had might have kept them conscious, and some of those were turned on. And they all might have woken back up on the way down as air pressure increased again. But we really don't know. The flight recorder stopped when the power went off in the breakup.

We know the breakup didn't kill them all, or knock them all unconscious, because if it had then they couldn't have turned on the air packs.

The design of the booster, while possessing flaws subject to improvement, was neither especially dangerous if operated properly, nor the result of political interference.
This statement is complete poppy-cock. Any rational person would recognise the inherent danger in strapping themselves to the side of an enormous tank of liquid oxygen and lighting it.
The LOX tank didn't kill anyone. And you don't light the LOX tank.

Jim was referring to the solid rocket boosters.

Replacement of the original asbestos-bearing putty in the booster seals was unrelated to the failure.
unrelated? surely this is the wrong word to use for a part that has been proven by more than one panel of highly respected scientists to be inherently flawed.
The putty seal problems existed before the change in materials was made. The problem was unrelated to that change happening. It is a myth that the problems appeared after the change.

Please read more carefully.

There were pressures on the flight schedule, but none of any recognizable political origin.
This is simply delusional, and requires no further comment
Claims were repeatedly made that the White House pushed on NASA to get them to launch in time for Reagan to do a live linkup chat as part of the State of the Union.

Phone logs, extensive interviews both with the White House staff and the NASA staff, repeated inquiries have shown that there is no factual evidence or ancedotal claim by anyone inside either the WH or the NASA program or its contractors that there was any such WH pressure.

If it happened, they erased all the evidence.

Things which are alledged and have no evidence are at best a myth or conspiracy theory. Calling it a myth, when it's been specifically repeatedly proven to have no factual evidence on the record anywhere, is a prefectly fair claim.

Your entire response seems to boil down to I believe these myths so they must be true!. The irony is astounding.

Call this Article the 8th Myth (1)

meBigGuy (308215) | more than 8 years ago | (#14577315)


Yeah ---- why not write an article on the 20th aniversity to try to whitewash NASA incompetence. The whole flight was a propaganda game, and they lost their gamble. They had the odds in their favor, but lost they did.

The astronauts probably died horribly. The rest of the article is BS too.

BTW, I saw it live on the NASA channel. Just thinking about almost brings tears. To have that insensitive clod minimize reality like he did is truely offensive.

Obligatory Tufte-Link (3, Informative)

atrocious cowpat (850512) | more than 8 years ago | (#14577233)


Edward Tufte wrote an excellent analysis [edwardtufte.com] on how crucial information about possible problems was buried in incompetently presented data.

Not CNN for me.. (1)

jcr (53032) | more than 8 years ago | (#14577243)

I was in the habit of watching the NASA channel, which my local cable company was carrying by that time. Usually, it was dead air or meetings, but when there was a mission in progress, it usually showed views of the earth from the shuttle.

-jcr

I remember the British Coverage (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14577253)

I remember the British Coverage.
The British coverage clearly showed the relatives and friends of the shuttle crew, clapping and cheering as the whole thing turned into a fireball. I remember this because it has been censored from every broadcast since then.

Quite a bit left completely unsaid... (2, Informative)

God of Lemmings (455435) | more than 8 years ago | (#14577297)

This article omits some very important facts related to how events
occurred. Specifically within the contractor that produced them.
Anyone who has taken an engineering ethics course should have seen this material already:

google's cache of onlineethics.org
http://72.14.203.104/search?q=cache:QhdMxzQaNpoJ:o nlineethics.org/moral/boisjoly/RB-intro.html+&hl=e n&gl=us&ct=clnk&cd=1 [72.14.203.104]

Slightly more damning is that the engineers from the contractor attempted to have the launch delayed and were overturned by the management.
another google cache.
http://72.14.203.104/search?q=cache:1AGp_WgV7w8J:o nlineethics.org/essays/shuttle/telecon.html+&hl=en &gl=us&ct=clnk&cd=1 [72.14.203.104]

Well done, James (2, Interesting)

brindafella (702231) | more than 8 years ago | (#14577307)

James Oberg is a regular participant in several space related newsgroups and news sites that I read. (I note sci.space.station)

Accordingly, I have watched his coverage of several newsworthy space events and know, from my watching of coverage and analysis, that James Obserg is credible and often "ahead of the game" in calling what really happened.

I congratulate James Oberg on this account, and analysis, and ask readers to take his work as 'credible'.

Unfortunately, I have seen numerous analysis pieces that add evidence and weight to Myth #3: The crew died instantly. It seems they died on impact with the water, minutres afterward, as evidence from the video suggests that the capsule remained substantially intact. I recall the analysis that the investigators could not construct a scenario that showed 'the crew died instantly and did not know they were going to die'.

Myth #4: Dangerous booster flaws result of meddling is also flawed! It seems that the rockets were fired (the Shuttle launched) outside the demonstrated 'safe' parameters of the launch vehicle. For example, if your car is driven across a slickly wet road then full steering lock is applied in an instant then most cars will just be in a skid, as the design parameters have just been exceeded. Get it?

asbestos (1)

Edmund Blackadder (559735) | more than 8 years ago | (#14577314)

I dont know why but any time there is a major disaster a bunch crackpots come out of the woodwork and start talking about how if we had the magical asbestos everything would have been alright.

Same thing happened on 9/11. They started talking about how supposedly the towers used to have asbestos insulation, but the evil environmentalists took it away, and if only the towers still had the asbestos insulation the steel columns would not have melted and the buildings would not have colapsed.

Of course in reality the towers still had the same asbestos insulation (the evil environmentalists had only sealed it so it does not leak in the air) at the time of the attacks, and that did not help. But on the other hand new yorkers (including me) got to breathe the asbestos laden smoke which is guaranteed to give many of us cancer.

So the moral of the story is -- do not believe anyone who tries to sell you on how helpful and useful asbestos is or could have been.

Palestine (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14577336)

I thought it was funny that on the CNN map the town above which the crash happenned (Palestine, TX) was taken very quickly off. Maybe with the Israeli astronaut on board they thought it was a bit too much food for conspiracy theorists?
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