Putting Schedule over Safety

Despite Challenger, the shuttle program ignores whistle-blowers

The hellish orange-and-white fireball that destroyed the space shuttle Challenger exploded over the Atlantic Ocean two years ago this week, killing seven crew members and shutting down the U.S. manned space program. Pressures to launch had led to what the Rogers commission later called NASA's "silent safety program," in which defects were overlooked and engineering cautions brushed aside. Yet as NASA and its many contractors now rush to correct the ! shuttle's potentially fatal weaknesses and resume launches by July, there are signs that the lesson of the Challenger tragedy has not been wholly heeded.

A blue-ribbon committee of eight experts...

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