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    The Challenger and Columbia Shuttle Disasters

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    Case Study: (Attached) Chapter 12, The Challenger and Columbia Shuttle Disasters

    Students will read the case found in Chapter 12 and prepare a 3-4 page response to the following questions:

    1. Discuss the changes that NASA implemented after the Challenger disaster.

    2. Discuss the aspects of NASA practice revealed in the aftermath of the Columbia disaster suggest that the change sought in the aftermath of Challenger were not sustained.

    3. Discuss how the actions for sustaining change of redesigning roles, redesigning reward systems and linking selection decision to change objectives may have contributed to changes being sustained.

    4. Discuss how the action for sustaining change of measuring progress, celebrating en route and fine-tuning may have contributed to the changes being sustained.

    5. Discuss the unanticipated outcomes that NASA failed to recognize.

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    Case Study: The Challenger and Columbia Shuttle Disasters

    There were two disasters involving NASA's space program's - that of the Challenger on January 28, 1986 and Columbia on February 1, 2003.

    Briefly recall in your write -up the events leading to the two shuttle disasters.

    The NASA space program was anchored on the success of the Space Shuttle Program. The programs have been proven a total success had it not for the major disasters that happened --- one in the 20th century and another in the 21st century.

    The January 28, 1986 Space Shuttle Challenger disaster was caused by the failure of "...one of the joints on a booster rocket... to seal. The 'culprits' were the synthetic rubber O-rings that were designed to keep the rockets' superhot gases from escaping from the joints between the booster's four main segments. Resulting flames then burned through the shuttle's external fuel tank. Liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen then mixed and ignited, causing the explosion...". All the astronauts perished. The disaster happened while the shuttle was lifting off.

    The February 1, 2003 Space Shuttle Columbia disaster happened during its reentry. Early on its take off "a 1.67 pound slab of insulating foam fell off the external fuel tank... and hit the left wing, and caused a breach in the tiles designed to protect the aluminum wing from the heat of reentry. On reentry, the breach allowed superheated gas into the wing, which, as a result melted in critical areas." All the astronauts aboard were killed.


    1. Discuss the changes that NASA implemented after the Challenger disaster.

    The suggestions of the investigating team are:
    - NASA must restructure its management to tighten control
    - Set up a group dedicated to finding and tracking hazards in regard to shuttle safety
    - Review critical items as well as submitting its redesign of the booster joint to a National Academy of Sciences group for verification

    NASA, on its part, went on to follow these changes.

    NASA has acted to elevate ...

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    This is a solution to a cases study entitled "The Challenger and Columbia Shuttle Disasters".