NASA TAKES A BEATING

The Rogers commission blames the agency for an avoidable accident

The language was dry, understated, yet painfully clear. What caused the space shuttle Challenger to explode last Jan. 28, killing its seven passengers? ''Failure of the pressure seal in the aft-field joint of the right solid-rocket motor.'' Why was the shuttle allowed to fly if unsafe? ''Neither Thiokol nor NASA responded adequately to internal warnings about the faulty seal design . . . There was a serious flaw in the decision-making process.'' The commission appointed to investigate the Challenger accident interviewed more than 160 people, held hearings that generated 2,800 pages of transcripts, then summarized it all in an orderly 256-page...

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