THE SHUTTLE'S DESIGN FLAW (Illustration) American History Disasters Famous Historical Events Famous People STEM Tragedies and Triumphs Aviation & Space Exploration

After the Challenger explosion, causing all seven crew members to die, NASA redesigned how the solid rocket booster joints were configured. This NASA image depicts the changes.


America's Supersonic Transport Shuttle program was set for its twenty-fifth mission. On board would be a payload specialist whose real job was teaching. Christa McAuliffe would be America's first "teacher in space." Launch was set for January 28, 1986.

Unknown by most people, all of the shuttles had a potentially fatal flaw. Roger Boisjoly knew about that flaw. He did his best to warn both his employer, Morton Thiokol, and NASA. But the people to whom he reported wouldn't listen. And the people who made the ultimate decisions at NASA weren't told.

As a result, Challenger and its seven-member crew - including America's first teacher in space - were blown out of the sky seventy-three seconds after launch.

A potential disaster was looming long before that fateful January day. Although NASA completed  twenty-four successful shuttle missions before STS 51-L (the official name for the Challenger mission), other flights had experienced lesser versions of the same problem that caused the Challenger explosion.

Trouble is, neither the astronauts nor their families knew about it. But the manufacturer of the shuttle's solid rocket booster (SRB) and solid rocket motor (SRM) knew. So did some of the management officials at NASA.

As a result of misjudgments and lack of effective team work, the mission was lost.

Today, the history of flight continues with new planes and ongoing technological advances. Some designers even anticipate planes with circular seating!

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5190stories and lessons created

Original Release: Nov 01, 2002

Updated Last Revision: Dec 08, 2014

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"THE SHUTTLE'S DESIGN FLAW" AwesomeStories.com. Nov 01, 2002. Jan 17, 2020.
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