.. n cause of the explosion was the O- ring which was vital to the Space Shuttles. When the O-ring failed, it seals in the sub-zero temperatures to which the Shuttles stack was exposed to. (Shuttle Challenger, 50.) Accompanying the temperatures, the hydrogen mixed with that causing the explosion which killed all 7 crew member aboard. Contrary to what people had originally thought, there were no human errors to be found in the transcripts. According to the transmission between Commander Scobbe and the Houston and Kennedy Space Center technicians, everything was fine in terms of communications, and the “..go with throttle up” (as described in the transcript of the communications) was a “normal” adjustment that would occur on any other shuttle at any other given time.
When the “..go with throttle up” commenced, the pressure for the O-ring was to great, letting the hydrogen leak out, thus causing the explosion. The weather conditions might also have been a factor. There was a cold front coming into the area which did make the air temperature very cold for Florida weather. There were actually icicles hanging from the launch pad at Kennedy Space Center. This was another of the contributing factors.
If there is cold enough temperatures to have ice, then the shuttle should not have been launched for two main reasons. First, that a shuttle has never before been launched in such cold temperatures and second, that some parts, such as the faulty O-ring would not stand the pressure of the coldness. At first, after the Challenger exploded, either everyone was blaming everyone else, or no one knew who to point the finger at. The only people to turn to were the makers of the Shuttles. Rockwell Corporation was one of the companies involved in the building of the Space Shuttles.
This organization was in charge of building the major shuttle parts including the fuselage, and the pay-load doors. This corporation earned about $3 for building the four shuttles operating at the time; Columbia, Challenger, Discovery and Atlantis. Martin Marietta Corporation was another company involved in the building of the shuttles. They build the huge external fuel tank which was part of the cause of the disaster of the Challenger. Morton Thiokol Inc. was the nation’s leading supplier for the solid-fuel rocket boosters.
Even though the sold- fule rocket booster were not believed to be a cause of the disaster, they were still questioned and reported about back to NASA. Lockheed was not of major concern to NASA for evidence of the disaster because Lockheed was basically responsible for the maintenance of the shuttle such as cleaning, maintaining, and testing the shuttles before every launch. Their tests were checked for structural damage of parts of the shuttle, but they were later dismissed. Grumman corporation, like Lockheed was also somewhat dismissed of any fault in the explosion due to the parts that they specialize in. Grumman only builds the wings for the shuttles which were of no concern in the disaster since they were working up to order. Among other companies dismissed of any wrong-doings in building parts or supervision were General Dynmaics, Boeing, and McDonnel Douglass Corporation.
The Future of NASA was the main question that was discussed after the disaster. After the Challenger disaster, there were no more shuttle flights of any kind for over eighteen months. NASA wanted to “re-group” and re-design some parts that they think would have tremendous improvements to the entire shuttle fleet. Some of the parts that were re- designed were parts of the Main External Tank, the Solid Rocket Boosters, and the O-ring. The major disadvantage that the Space Shuttle Challenger had, along with the Columbia, was that since they were the first two shuttles produced, they had 1970’s technology designing. Thus, improvements could have, and needed to be made. The next question on NASA’s mind was that should their be another budget for a new shuttle. Among the remaining shuttles (from oldest to newest) were: Enterprise (a test- shuttle only, has never been in orbit.), Columbia (still operational), Challenger (destroyed), Discovery, (still operational), and Atlantis (still operational).
These three main shuttles could serve NASA through the 1990’s, but after that would be too difficult. The primary objective of NASA in the early 1970’s was to have a space station (which is still the idea) called Freedom in the year 2020. The shuttles would not be able to last that long by only having three working ones. So, NASA asked Congress for funds to build a forth working shuttle. Congress leaders supported the idea of building a new shuttle, but they believed that budget restrictions might hinder the effort.
Representative Edward P. Boland of Massachussetts (D) stated that “..I would have a forth orbiter..I don’t think NASA can meet its requirements for the space flights without it.” (NY Times, Jan. 30th, 1986; A16). A new space vehicle would cost about $2 billion dollars. (NOTE: At this time during 1986, no immediate funding was given to NASA for a fourth shuttle. However, in 1989, a new shuttle was being built called the Endeavour, which would be America’s best and last shuttle. Best, because it has better technology than the other shuttles.
Last, because the four shuttles are designed for one-hundred missions each, and they would all last until the year 2020 when the Space Station Freedom is to be built.) Eighteen months after the Challenger Disaster, the Space Shuttle Columbia lifted off perfectly without a glitch. This helped to cure many feelings that some Americans had about other possible problems that might cause another explosion to occur. If another disaster had occurred, then manned shuttle flights would have been abolished, and only un-maned rockets would be sent into Space. This would limit NASA’s capabilities and virtually ruin the dream of the Space Station because with manned space-craft, many arduous tasks could be accomplished in space such as the space station and the fixing of satellites, which could not be done by mechanical means. People also did not want to have the Soviet Union nor Japan excel in their quest for Space Exploration, so they wanted to have high hopes for the American technology.
After the Challenger disaster, there were many books, thesis’s, tributes to the crew of Challenger, and tributes to McAullife, written for the astronauts which are still remembered over six years later. The name Challenger is also retired, so that no other ship in the future of NASA will have any similarities to Challenger. My opinion is special to my own. At the time of the disaster, I was in 5th grade and I had just come home when I saw on the news..”This is a Special Report..Peter Jennings reporting.” I was often amazed and excited about what they were going to say when my favorite television shows were interrupted, or likewise when they had a “real” broadcast of the Emergency Broadcast System; that annoying beep. Still, that day I was neither amazed nor excited, just for a 5th grader, confused.
I felt sorrow and sadness for all of the astronauts, yet pride for them since they all had risked their lives for the benefit of the American people. At the time of the disaster, I felt that NASA and the entire United States space program was set back years. However, the past few years have been positive ones with the successful launching of over two dozen shuttles. And, the other day of this week, the newest shuttle just completed, Endeavour, had launched successfully into space, and, while in space, performing what it set out to do; fix and attach rockets to a satellite (called Instelat) hat was orbiting too low in the Earth’s for it to function properly. On the last attempt to retrieve it, the three Astronaut space-walkers attached it to the cargo bay of the shuttle and set it off to a higher orbit.
With these many accomplishments that NASA and the United States Government has made in the last 3 years, I believe that the Space Program is back on track better than it was before the accident due to the vast knowledge we have now of “learning from our mistakes.” Now, it can be told true, that we can explore Space, the Final Frontier, to where ever its limits may be.