Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollectionsLaunch

Challenger Catastrophe

March 11, 1986

Mayday! Mayday! Mayday! This is the call pilots use to communicate an emergency. It is immediately understood and action is taken.

Engineers use an entirely different system, and if they work for the government, another form of non-language overlays their communication. William P. Rogers, chairman of the presidential commission investigating the space shuttle explosion, recognized this when he said that the decision-making system was flawed.

In any other profession the system of communication is not designed to escape personal responsibility for an action but relies on the fact of personal involvement. The personal pronoun is used to indicate this involvement, I think.

NASA's system was certainly effective in the avoidance of showing that the managers had any responsibility. The ship sank and the captain was given another and more responsible command. That certainly isn't the military way, so those who fear the militarization of NASA, at least, can put that to rest.

One engineer far far below in organizational boxes, and in the rigidity of the NASA launch document, called up the walls, "Do not launch outside of your experience!" Another said, "Rockwell cannot 100% assure that it is safe to fly!"

In your language and mine these are hardly ringing warnings. NASA understood them; they were in their language.

They were . . . "appropriately dispositioned" and "everyone signed up for the flight." There were no "non-concurrences." Does that "support the flight"? You bet it does.

BYRON MORGAN

Venice

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|