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Truth, Lies, and O-Rings: Inside the Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster

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What they didn’t want you to know   "We all watched in shock and disbelief when Challenger was lost. Probably no one felt more disappointment and regret than Allan McDonald, who had warned us not to launch that day. His story tells of loss, grief, and the eventual rebuilding and recovery."--Robert "Hoot" Gibson, former Space Shuttle pilot and commander   "A major contribut What they didn’t want you to know   "We all watched in shock and disbelief when Challenger was lost. Probably no one felt more disappointment and regret than Allan McDonald, who had warned us not to launch that day. His story tells of loss, grief, and the eventual rebuilding and recovery."--Robert "Hoot" Gibson, former Space Shuttle pilot and commander   "A major contribution to a difficult episode in the history of human spaceflight."--Roger D. Launius, Division of Space History, Smithsonian Institution   “McDonald tells the heartbreaking tale of how he saw his words of warning ignored, and the fateful consequences of that decision.”--Donald C. Elder III, Eastern New Mexico University   On a cold January morning in 1986, NASA launched the Space Shuttle Challenger, despite warnings against doing so by many individuals, including Allan McDonald. The fiery destruction of Challenger on live television moments after launch remains an indelible image in the nation’s collective memory.   In Truth, Lies, and O-Rings, McDonald, a skilled engineer and executive, relives the tragedy from where he stood at Launch Control Center.  As he fought to draw attention to the real reasons behind the disaster, he was the only one targeted for retribution by both NASA and his employer, Morton Thiokol, Inc., makers of the shuttle’s solid rocket boosters. In this whistle-blowing yet rigorous and fair-minded book, McDonald, with the assistance of internationally distinguished aerospace historian James R. Hansen, addresses all of the factors that led to the accident, some of which were never included in NASA’s Failure Team report submitted to the Presidential Commission.   Truth, Lies, and O-Rings is the first look at the Challenger tragedy and its aftermath from someone who was on the inside, recognized the potential disaster, and tried to prevent it. It also addresses the early warnings of very severe debris issues from the first two post-Challenger flights, which ultimately resulted in the loss of Columbia some fifteen years later.


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What they didn’t want you to know   "We all watched in shock and disbelief when Challenger was lost. Probably no one felt more disappointment and regret than Allan McDonald, who had warned us not to launch that day. His story tells of loss, grief, and the eventual rebuilding and recovery."--Robert "Hoot" Gibson, former Space Shuttle pilot and commander   "A major contribut What they didn’t want you to know   "We all watched in shock and disbelief when Challenger was lost. Probably no one felt more disappointment and regret than Allan McDonald, who had warned us not to launch that day. His story tells of loss, grief, and the eventual rebuilding and recovery."--Robert "Hoot" Gibson, former Space Shuttle pilot and commander   "A major contribution to a difficult episode in the history of human spaceflight."--Roger D. Launius, Division of Space History, Smithsonian Institution   “McDonald tells the heartbreaking tale of how he saw his words of warning ignored, and the fateful consequences of that decision.”--Donald C. Elder III, Eastern New Mexico University   On a cold January morning in 1986, NASA launched the Space Shuttle Challenger, despite warnings against doing so by many individuals, including Allan McDonald. The fiery destruction of Challenger on live television moments after launch remains an indelible image in the nation’s collective memory.   In Truth, Lies, and O-Rings, McDonald, a skilled engineer and executive, relives the tragedy from where he stood at Launch Control Center.  As he fought to draw attention to the real reasons behind the disaster, he was the only one targeted for retribution by both NASA and his employer, Morton Thiokol, Inc., makers of the shuttle’s solid rocket boosters. In this whistle-blowing yet rigorous and fair-minded book, McDonald, with the assistance of internationally distinguished aerospace historian James R. Hansen, addresses all of the factors that led to the accident, some of which were never included in NASA’s Failure Team report submitted to the Presidential Commission.   Truth, Lies, and O-Rings is the first look at the Challenger tragedy and its aftermath from someone who was on the inside, recognized the potential disaster, and tried to prevent it. It also addresses the early warnings of very severe debris issues from the first two post-Challenger flights, which ultimately resulted in the loss of Columbia some fifteen years later.

30 review for Truth, Lies, and O-Rings: Inside the Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster

  1. 5 out of 5

    terpkristin

    Depressing but fascinating. I couldn't put the book down. The amount of CYA that was done, the level of non-cooperation with the Rogers Commission by NASA MSFC and Thiokol...I'd wish it weren't true. But some of the astronauts that I've worked/interacted with, as well as the former Shuttle PM (Wayne Hale) recommended the book, so I think it is probably more true than not. More terrifying, the shuttle crews that this disaster impacted (because Challenger was not an isolated o-ring incident; it wa Depressing but fascinating. I couldn't put the book down. The amount of CYA that was done, the level of non-cooperation with the Rogers Commission by NASA MSFC and Thiokol...I'd wish it weren't true. But some of the astronauts that I've worked/interacted with, as well as the former Shuttle PM (Wayne Hale) recommended the book, so I think it is probably more true than not. More terrifying, the shuttle crews that this disaster impacted (because Challenger was not an isolated o-ring incident; it was just the worst one) were never informed of what was going on, technically, with the vehicle and rockets. And worse still, NASA didn't learn its lesson, because McDonald touches on the fact that Columbia had some of the same root causes in terms of lack of communication and lack of appropriate follow-through on issues. In fairness, this book isn't particularly well-written. While McDonald may have been a manager at the time of Challenger, it's clear that he's mostly an engineer. He writes like one. It's a shame, because I think that if the book was better written, it might be more approachable. In particular, he uses terms that as an aerospace engineer are part of my normal lexicon, but normal people may not know...nevermind the TLAs (or FLAs). I also learned things in this book about a person who used to work for the company that I work for (and was on the board). And learned a historical fact about the company I guess I currently work for. And I was again reminded of how inbred the aerospace industry really is. Alas. This book was a timely read, with the 30th anniversary of that fateful day coming up in just over a week. Ad astra per aspera.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Christian

    I think most of us know the official causes of the Challenger disaster. But this book examines the disaster through one of the engineers aside from Roger Boisjoly that raised concerns about the launch. While some of the sections are repetitive through the book, because of the technical complexity I find it a necessary evil. Having said that, the book is remarkably easy to read and doesn't have the mish-mosh of TLAs one would expect of engineering and scientific writing. The background, the accid I think most of us know the official causes of the Challenger disaster. But this book examines the disaster through one of the engineers aside from Roger Boisjoly that raised concerns about the launch. While some of the sections are repetitive through the book, because of the technical complexity I find it a necessary evil. Having said that, the book is remarkably easy to read and doesn't have the mish-mosh of TLAs one would expect of engineering and scientific writing. The background, the accident, the hearings, and the redesign of the Solid Rocket Boosters are covered in great detail.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Jeff

    I listened to a Freakonomics podcast about failure and it referenced this book during an interview with Allan McDonald (http://freakonomics.com/2014/06/05/fa...). It's a long one - almost 600 pages - and it took me awhile to get through it, but I enjoyed the read very much. Although the book was at times overly technical for my tastes, it was a fascinating read about the known O-ring problems in the solid rocket motor joints that precipitated the Challenger explosion, as well as the investigatio I listened to a Freakonomics podcast about failure and it referenced this book during an interview with Allan McDonald (http://freakonomics.com/2014/06/05/fa...). It's a long one - almost 600 pages - and it took me awhile to get through it, but I enjoyed the read very much. Although the book was at times overly technical for my tastes, it was a fascinating read about the known O-ring problems in the solid rocket motor joints that precipitated the Challenger explosion, as well as the investigation into root causes and potential solutions that followed. I felt that McDonald is slightly narcissistic at times in his writing, but that didn't take much away from the content. If you have an engineering or manufacturing background and are interested in reading about how bureaucracy can sometimes create an environment that makes success challenging, I think you'll enjoy this book.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Lyn

    My father worked for Morton-Thiokol at the time of the Challenger disaster. While he hasn't read this book yet, he says that this is the person he trusts to tell the truth. It was great to hear this first-hand account and to compare it to my father's stories and my own memories. I was surprised at how much I actually understood as a child. There were a few surprises, but not many. I guess my father did a good job explaining it all. Allan McDonald writes like you'd expect an engineer to write. The My father worked for Morton-Thiokol at the time of the Challenger disaster. While he hasn't read this book yet, he says that this is the person he trusts to tell the truth. It was great to hear this first-hand account and to compare it to my father's stories and my own memories. I was surprised at how much I actually understood as a child. There were a few surprises, but not many. I guess my father did a good job explaining it all. Allan McDonald writes like you'd expect an engineer to write. There are so many details it tends to be repetitive at times, especially in the beginning. But that turned out to be beneficial as there was so much info to sort through. It helped to go over some things again. If this story interests you, this is a fantastic book. The story was incredibly interesting and all my questions were answered thoroughly.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Shane Phillips

    Blah blah. 6hrs into audiobook before accident occurs. Sad to say but because of that it was almost a relief when disaster happened in the book. I was so sick of hearing writers job history and each booster test and whether there was any nozzle wear.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    This is the first extensive account I have read of the Challenger disaster. The book seems so patently biased to me that I am left wondering how much of it I can believe and feeling that it's necessary to read another account. However, after 500 pages on Challenger, it's definitely time for a break. The good - It's detailed. To a fault. McDonald was there for most of what happened before and after the disaster, and so the details are covered in-depth. I really feel McDonald omitted nothing signif This is the first extensive account I have read of the Challenger disaster. The book seems so patently biased to me that I am left wondering how much of it I can believe and feeling that it's necessary to read another account. However, after 500 pages on Challenger, it's definitely time for a break. The good - It's detailed. To a fault. McDonald was there for most of what happened before and after the disaster, and so the details are covered in-depth. I really feel McDonald omitted nothing significant. The bad - It's more of an account of McDonald's experience with the Challenger than the Challenger itself. McDonald includes all kinds of random information of virtually no interest to your typical reader, such as interview requests from well-known journalists and the like. It feels hopelessly biased. McDonald feels he is entirely innocent in the disaster and spends much of the text vindicating himself and his actions before and after the tragedy. It is a very self-centered account. For what it's worth, I don't share McDonald's opinion that he was innocent. McDonald feels he did all he could to stop the launch, and I heartily disagree. He declared he wouldn't sign a recommendation to fly but was willing to let his boss do it. Given his position, there is no question in my mind that had he been willing to put his career on the line, he could have stopped the flight - could have and should have. McDonald makes much of NASA's reaction to Thiokol's recommendation that 53 degrees be set as the minimum temperature for flight. I hardly blame NASA. Who comes up with a new, highly restrictive go-for-flight criteria less than 24 hours before a launch? Had Thiokol been responsible, they would have made this recommendation months or years ago. Of course NASA should have, after their initial dismay, called a complete halt until Thiokol's concerns could be understood and put to rest. Nevertheless, Thiokol's management - including McDonald - is equally at fault for eventually giving an unrestricted go-for-launch recommendation. It took mistakes my many, many people for Challenger to occur. The book made it clear there was no one responsible individual or organization. McDonald's account is very thorough and complete and allows the reader to draw conclusions like mine above. Overall, I found this a bit trying to read. It could have easily been trimmed by 50 or 100 pages without losing any facts about the tragedy itself. Nonetheless, it's certainly a good reference on the Challenger.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jamie

    A testament to one of the greatest case studies on existential risk, Al McDonald's text is one of the most exceptionally documented, detailed and insightful works on the emergence of catastrophic risk produced. As one who manages enterprise and operational risk in global financial processing, Al's work provides an invaluable illustration into the encroachment of the political into the realm of technical risk. I've yet to encounter a similar work that is so well documented and objective, yet makes A testament to one of the greatest case studies on existential risk, Al McDonald's text is one of the most exceptionally documented, detailed and insightful works on the emergence of catastrophic risk produced. As one who manages enterprise and operational risk in global financial processing, Al's work provides an invaluable illustration into the encroachment of the political into the realm of technical risk. I've yet to encounter a similar work that is so well documented and objective, yet makes you stop on every other page and realize how intentionally blind our governance systems are that they could willfully condemn the crew of the Challenger to a fiery end due to the obstinate career advancing/protecting interests of NASA and Morton Thiokol management. Whether you're in risk, human resource management, operations, or engineering, this is a book written with exceptional humility that merits significant attention in our professional and educational circles.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Kathy

    OMG, finally got through this freaking book. It was tough to finish. I really like the information in it, but the writing was not pleasant. He repeats himself over and over, sometimes from one page to the next. He also includes SO MANY unnecessary details! I don't care that you ordered pizza while you were figuring out your speech. Hell, I don't care when or where you were figuring out your speech. Just tell me about the content. This book could have been half the length and would have been a ve OMG, finally got through this freaking book. It was tough to finish. I really like the information in it, but the writing was not pleasant. He repeats himself over and over, sometimes from one page to the next. He also includes SO MANY unnecessary details! I don't care that you ordered pizza while you were figuring out your speech. Hell, I don't care when or where you were figuring out your speech. Just tell me about the content. This book could have been half the length and would have been a very good read. I wanted to like it and finish it because I wanted to know the information, but it literally took me a year. I had to keep taking time off from it because I just couldn't handle it. Not to mention it feels like throughout the whole book he's just on the defense. I get that he's trying to portray his point of view, but I was so tired of his tone of righteousnous.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Stephen Maser

    This book is epic. Not just in length, but also in the amount of detail that the author has put in. I found this book very interesting but the reader should keep in mind that it is extraordinarily biased. It is a memoir, not a straightforward telling of the facts from all sides. You definitely get the perspective of McDonald’s position before, during, and after the Challenger disaster. You can also tell that he is an engineer and it reads like one is writing. There are plenty of details that cou This book is epic. Not just in length, but also in the amount of detail that the author has put in. I found this book very interesting but the reader should keep in mind that it is extraordinarily biased. It is a memoir, not a straightforward telling of the facts from all sides. You definitely get the perspective of McDonald’s position before, during, and after the Challenger disaster. You can also tell that he is an engineer and it reads like one is writing. There are plenty of details that could’ve been removed and you would’ve still understood what happened. Having said that, the technical details do help the reader understanding his arguments. Overall, I would still recommend reading this book. When the book focusses on the people involved and not just the technical details I found the story fascinating.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Ro Drop

    Great book. Space Shuttle and aerospace is just part of it. This book details how hard it is to speak up and do the right thing before and after an event. Must read for people in management to learn how putting money and profit first is not a wise idea when lives are involved.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Margaret

    Oh my, what a slog. This was so dry. It was so repetitive. And that's a shame, because this is one of those tragic events burned into the memories of many Americans, and I was really kind of psyched to read an expert's take on what happened. I remember watching this in my first grade classroom, and being horrified at what had just happened. Like 9/11, like JFK's assassination, like Pearl Harbor, if you were alive when it occurred, you know exactly where you were when you heard the news. I've rea Oh my, what a slog. This was so dry. It was so repetitive. And that's a shame, because this is one of those tragic events burned into the memories of many Americans, and I was really kind of psyched to read an expert's take on what happened. I remember watching this in my first grade classroom, and being horrified at what had just happened. Like 9/11, like JFK's assassination, like Pearl Harbor, if you were alive when it occurred, you know exactly where you were when you heard the news. I've read in-depth books about Chernobyl and other disasters, including space program disasters, and am willing to forgive a little technobabble here and there. Highly technical stuff explained in an interesting way for the layperson can be successfully done. Unfortunately, 99% of this book was the author, an engineer who didn't sign off on Challenger's launch because of incredibly cold weather, rehashing that fact over and over and over. Much of the text is essentially transcripts from congressional and NASA hearings, with just a little color thrown in here and there; and while once in a while that can be useful, it can't be the entire narrative. This book so badly needed an editor. Al McDonald has an interesting story to tell somewhere in there, and it's a shame no one helped him cut the fat here. A good 200-250 pages could've easily been removed. This is especially evident when he reproduces newspaper and magazine articles about the disaster and his testimony, and the writing is just so much better. It didn't really satisfy my curiosity about what caused the Challenger explosion, or put it into a larger perspective about getting things done quickly and cheaply to meet arbitrary deadlines. President Reagan famously wanted to boast in his State of the Union address that America had sent a regular citizen, teacher Christa McAuliffe, into space, and the launch date was critical. Unseasonably cold temperatures in FL that morning not only changed the celebratory nature of Reagan's speech, but took McAuliffe's and six other astronauts' lives. McDonald just kept pointing out that sometimes things fail, and all an expert like him, one of the people who built one of the parts, can do is sign off on whether the risk is worth it to achieve a successful outcome (i.e. the shuttle actually getting into orbit and returning the astronauts safely), or it isn't (their shuttle explodes in a haunting Y-shaped cloud a mere 7 seconds into lift-off). I would say skip this book unless you're really hungry for over 500 pages of repetition and not much of it very fascinating or enlightening. I'm going to hunt for a better Challenger book in the future. Those poor seven people deserve a better format for their tragic deaths.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    This is an important book, but I think there are a few things that the reader should know going in. First - this is not an unbiased account of Challenger, this is McDonald's memoir. It is written in the first person and does not include any outside points of view. He will do his best to convince you of what he believes is correct, and you can decide to believe him or not. Despite how he was treated by Morton Thiokol, he is certainly a company man. Second, it is extremely technical. I don't think This is an important book, but I think there are a few things that the reader should know going in. First - this is not an unbiased account of Challenger, this is McDonald's memoir. It is written in the first person and does not include any outside points of view. He will do his best to convince you of what he believes is correct, and you can decide to believe him or not. Despite how he was treated by Morton Thiokol, he is certainly a company man. Second, it is extremely technical. I don't think most casual readers need quite this much technical detail, including a lot of jargon that is never defined. There are some engineering diagrams included, but I could not read them. Anyone in the corporate world will probably not be surprised to find that it is filled with an alphabet soup of acronyms. There is a two-page glossary of abbreviations in the back that you might want to dog-ear as a reference while you read. Finally, it is quite repetitive, a device which I suspect is used to counter the level of technical detail by just repeating the complicated explanations in slightly different ways. Although I am a complete layperson regarding engineering, aerospace, flight physics, etc., even I felt that issues were being repetitively over-explained after a while. This is more than a slight problem given that the book is over 550 pages long. The scope of the book is also much wider than the Challenger disaster, with a good chunk of the book covering the process of redesigning the solid rocket motor that failed on the Challenger, and Morton Thiokol's general woes as a result of the catastrophe. You will also enjoy reading what amount to lightly abridged transcripts of every single Commission and Congressional hearing McDonald participated in, or later watched tape of. I often wished as I was reading that instead of writing this book himself, McDonald had worked with an investigative reporter who could have delivered something far more balanced and better edited than this. However, it was clear he had some things he needed to get off his chest. I wouldn't recommend this for the casual reader, but for hobbyists who want a very detailed picture of the engineering, failure, and investigation of Challenger, this would probably be a rewarding read.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Fraser Kinnear

    A first-hand account of being the whistle-blower at a tragedy and almost-cover-up of global-proportions. There's some incredibly powerful "Here I stand" moments, in particular at the Rogers Commission that make for phenomenal drama. It's also a reminder that the suffering of a whistle-blower doesn't end when they are vindicated, as McDonald and other whistle-blowers' careers sometimes suffered from the fallout for years after. McDonald seems to have written a book more "for the records" than for A first-hand account of being the whistle-blower at a tragedy and almost-cover-up of global-proportions. There's some incredibly powerful "Here I stand" moments, in particular at the Rogers Commission that make for phenomenal drama. It's also a reminder that the suffering of a whistle-blower doesn't end when they are vindicated, as McDonald and other whistle-blowers' careers sometimes suffered from the fallout for years after. McDonald seems to have written a book more "for the records" than for a general audience, because the middle half of the book really drags through a line-by-line accounting of the Rogers Commission and Senate hearings. If you want to see examples of how sophisticated guilty parties are able to obfuscate matters in court, then fine, but otherwise it's pretty dull. The adversarial nature of the Rogers Commission reminded me very much of the inquisition Oppenheimer was subjected to, as recounted in "American Prometheus", only with the good-guy bad-guy roles reversed, and with a just outcome. In fact, the balance of pages seem dedicated to bureaucratic hair-splitting, and there ends up being a lot less engineering than I was hoping for. The last quarter does pick up, as McDonald explains the return-to-flight test program. I also enjoyed McDonald's brief encounter with some conniving Senators. If anything, this is a fantastic perspective into how government contracting works, including all of the vagaries of perverse incentives around sole-source contracting. It's also a clear reminder of how no process and control system can prevent bad managment and shoddy ethics. NASA flipping from "prove to me we can fly" to "prove to me we shouldn't fly" is the oft-repeated refrain throughout. The book pairs really well with "Boyd", albeit missing the same protagonist characterization. Now I really want to pick up that Sally Ride biography, as well as find a good Feynman one.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Marielle Pellegrino

    It drives me a little mad at how long this book is and how long it needs to be. The first part is filled with technical details that as this is more my field I could skim and read over them but would seriously confuse and bog down the lay reader. With that said, I do think this is a good book to read on this tragedy. Written from the perspective of the whistle blower it gives an interesting perspective and immerses the reader in the events that unfold. Unfortunately, the narrator is kind of unli It drives me a little mad at how long this book is and how long it needs to be. The first part is filled with technical details that as this is more my field I could skim and read over them but would seriously confuse and bog down the lay reader. With that said, I do think this is a good book to read on this tragedy. Written from the perspective of the whistle blower it gives an interesting perspective and immerses the reader in the events that unfold. Unfortunately, the narrator is kind of unlikeable (and the book reads like he is still on trial for the failure of Challenger) but that is the way it goes with nonfiction. Can’t be picky about that. Okay so here is my recommendation since you made it this far, you should read this but not the whole thing. Skim part 1 (if something is confusing move on the actual details related to the accident will be brought up again and again). Read parts 2, 3, and 4. Skim part 5 and you really don’t have to read 6 and 7.... like at all.

  15. 4 out of 5

    kingfish 94

    Very long. Very technical (I appreciated that) Heartbreaking in that NASA got way, way too big for its britches. They (NASA) were just going to keep on killing astronauts, schedules be dammed. This tragedy was SO preventable. A generation or so later, bam, they did it again. (Columbia) How is it that when astronauts die, the people ON THE GROUND say 'Uh, oh....I guess we shouldn't have done XYZ!' I'm for space exploration as much as the next guy, but NASA...... I'm glad they're not flying shuttle Very long. Very technical (I appreciated that) Heartbreaking in that NASA got way, way too big for its britches. They (NASA) were just going to keep on killing astronauts, schedules be dammed. This tragedy was SO preventable. A generation or so later, bam, they did it again. (Columbia) How is it that when astronauts die, the people ON THE GROUND say 'Uh, oh....I guess we shouldn't have done XYZ!' I'm for space exploration as much as the next guy, but NASA...... I'm glad they're not flying shuttles anymore. No one is dying in space for political or funding reasons, either. And 'Morton Thiokol' is not that much better than NASA. This book will make you think. This book will make you mad. This book will make you sad. Godspeed Astronauts. 5 stars.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Bryce Edlund

    Truth, Lies and O-Rings is a sad story of the negligence that brought down the Challenger space shuttle. The book is very detailed, and was written by Allan McDonald, a man who worked for the company that manufactured the O-Ring that led to the disaster. He was the director of the space shuttle motor project. He tells the story of what happened and how this tragedy did not need to happen. If you enjoy true stories that involve space exploration or stories that are tragic you will like this book.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Tally, The Chatty Introvert

    Heck of a book, chock full of more than just the initial Challenger investigation through the eyes of one who worked with the program and testified (over and over) as to the unheeded warnings he and others provided to NASA. Part memoir, part engineering text, part history, and part a story about ethics in the midst of a blame game, I think this is worth a read for those who want to get the gist how far reaching those 73 seconds became to the engineers, NASA, and those around them.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Beth

    Fascinating topic, poorly edited. The dryness of the engineering topic is exacerbated by repetitiveness - multiple paragraphs that say the same thing in different ways. The author re-introduces important personae multiple times as if they had not previously been mentioned.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Edward Woodward

    Very technical, but it truly points out NASA's attempted cover up and bullying and MTI's upper management bending to NASA's will rather than listening to their own engineers. Well worth reading if you are at all interested in the United States "reach for the stars" Very technical, but it truly points out NASA's attempted cover up and bullying and MTI's upper management bending to NASA's will rather than listening to their own engineers. Well worth reading if you are at all interested in the United States "reach for the stars"

  20. 4 out of 5

    Eric

    A very informative book about the Challenger Shuttle disaster. While informative, and interesting, the book was way too long, often quite repetitive, sometimes too technical, and written from one point of view.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Frank

    Great book NASA knew about the issues with the Space Shuttle and was happy to cover it up but the for profit company was the one that told NASA not to launch. Very interesting book and well written. Very detailed.

  22. 4 out of 5

    matthew sipek

    Extremely important book for anybody in the aerospace industry to read and very important for anybody else. Shows how, in a hundred thousand strong engineering workforce, one human with integrity can make a difference.

  23. 5 out of 5

    PJ

    A must-read for all rocket engineers!

  24. 5 out of 5

    George

    Cold have been 25% shorter. An interesting read none the less. The bureaucracy of NASA et all, brought me back to my early engineering days.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Paddy Fagan

    A real insiders view of the process, problems and tragedy of the challenger disaster - a key set of insights for anyone leading or managing engineer teams in any domain.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Pam R

    Great book to listen to! Perfect subject for audiobook.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Michael Mckenna

    A grind of a read with lots of technical information, but interesting know about the inside of what went on and all the deliberations I didn’t realized happened when I was in 3rd grade.

  28. 5 out of 5

    RVJ Callanan

    Like it or not, Allan McDonald's insider account of the Challenger Disaster is a book for the ages. The early chapters are necessarily tedious which may put off the more superficial or time-pressed reader. Here, I am especially thinking of tech managers who have become so beholden to corporate speak that they are losing touch with their technical grassroots. If you find yourself sliding into this miasma, you will have most to gain from the lessons of this book — as will your employer because any Like it or not, Allan McDonald's insider account of the Challenger Disaster is a book for the ages. The early chapters are necessarily tedious which may put off the more superficial or time-pressed reader. Here, I am especially thinking of tech managers who have become so beholden to corporate speak that they are losing touch with their technical grassroots. If you find yourself sliding into this miasma, you will have most to gain from the lessons of this book — as will your employer because any organisation will ignore engineering realities at its peril. So take a hit for the team and plough through the minutiae of sold rocket booster design and see what happens when the movers and shakers play God with tried-and-tested engineering principles. But do keep a reference on hand or you may get lost in a whirlwind of acronyms and empirical data. Knowledge that is hard won is best retained and your perseverance in the early chapters will deliver its own rewards. With many unexpected twists and turns beyond the main subject matter, you will not be able to put this book down even after you reach the end. This is also a must-read for aspiring engineers in any field, not least in software development where preventable disasters don't even raise eyebrows anymore. Accomplished engineers are not always the best story-tellers; but they do have an inherent honesty and "rational empathy" as epitomised by the author and his more diligent colleagues. Some will confuse this with naivety and aloofness which only betrays these traits within themselves. Because the chickens always come home to roost — even when they take the scenic route. This is no time to let sleeping space dogs lie. Feel the rabid heat from the baying mob as lies give way to truth and the spotlight shifts from the fall guys to those who hung them out to dry. Marvel at the honesty and courage of a select group of engineers, led by McDonald, who give the Shuttle programme a badly-needed reality check thereby ensuring its survival — at least until it was eventually put into cold storage by narrow commercial interests. Shudder at the continuing attempts to sabotage their selfless efforts by dissembling careerists, pork-barrel politicians and unscrupulous competitors who are prepared to milk a tragic event for all its worth. Celebrate democratic politics at its best when Ronald Reagan populates his Presidential Commission with the right mix of experts who can discharge their remit without fear or favour. Compare the various documentaries on the Challenger Disaster and consider how even the most respected media organisations can put their own self-serving gloss on the facts — a lesson we must still heed today! Pay particular attention to the appended mini-biography of the author and the winding path that led him to a career in engineering. It makes one wonder if our postmodern world prepares us adequately for this most noble profession.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Alice

    This is a difficult book for me to review. It is a very technical book, chocked full of engineering terminology, acronyms and complex engineering concepts. It was a hard slog for me, with no engineering background or experience. The Challenger disaster was so tragic and sadly it was totally avoidable. McDonald's book details the failings of NASA and Morton Thiokol to prevent the preventable, resulting in the deaths of seven astronauts in a fiery explosion, witnessed by families on the ground and This is a difficult book for me to review. It is a very technical book, chocked full of engineering terminology, acronyms and complex engineering concepts. It was a hard slog for me, with no engineering background or experience. The Challenger disaster was so tragic and sadly it was totally avoidable. McDonald's book details the failings of NASA and Morton Thiokol to prevent the preventable, resulting in the deaths of seven astronauts in a fiery explosion, witnessed by families on the ground and beamed lived around the world. I was 8 yrs old when it happened and I remember the images vividly. The coverup, instigated by some NASA personnel and MTI management, was a disgraceful, sad example of corporate politics and ass-covering that left me feeling depressed and angry. I don't feel surprised though, which adds to my negative feelings. Al McDonald is obviously a clever, ethical man with a strong conscience and balls of steel. He single handedly ensured the truth came to light and he paid dearly for it, though I am left with a sense that he is a sucker for punishment, since he ended up being a 40+ year 'company man' himself. Although he justifies this by apparently wanting to effect 'change from within' and ensure integrity existed in the Space Shuttle Programme, surely there comes a time when you just move on. McDonald really did seem like he enjoyed the torture of it all by the end of the book. There are times in his book when McDonald appears to believe Morton Thiokol should have been thankful to him for being a constant moralistic unwavering thorn in their bureaucratic side. But it's not called a thankless job for nothing and hey, only a rat can win a rat race.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Ron Frisard

    Being an engineer myself, this book showed me that when people are put into difficult situations that very few react for the better good and stand up to tell the truth but Mr. McDonald did. Allan McDonald should be celebrated for his courage to take on his employer and NASA about what really happened the day of the Challenger disaster. Not only did he speak up, he was relentless in getting the shuttle program back up and running. I fully enjoyed hearing this story from the man himself with exact Being an engineer myself, this book showed me that when people are put into difficult situations that very few react for the better good and stand up to tell the truth but Mr. McDonald did. Allan McDonald should be celebrated for his courage to take on his employer and NASA about what really happened the day of the Challenger disaster. Not only did he speak up, he was relentless in getting the shuttle program back up and running. I fully enjoyed hearing this story from the man himself with exact details and facts - also something that most people rarely know about such a time in American history that has been whitewashed by news media and the government. I feel every graduating engineering student should read this book - see what ethics are about in the face of corporate greed and government red tape. There are a few people in the book that you see have serious self bias and first do not even want to admit they had a part in the screwing up and then you have Mr. McDonald who really showed great leadership in his battle to get the truth out. I highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in science and engineering or who really wants to hear a great story about NASA's history.

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