Obit of the Day: Tried to Save the Challenger
Long into the night of January 27, 1986 Roger Boisjoly and several other engineers for Morton Thiokol, the company that manufactured the space shuttle’s solid rocket boosters, argued that the launch of Challenger should be cancelled. Boisjoly knew that the O-rings in the booster would not seal properly in cold temperatures and could cause a fuel leak and fire. NASA and his company refused to listen, claiming that he lacked enough evidence.
Boisjoly was so confident that a disaster loomed that he did not watch the launch of Challenger the next morning. One minute and thirteen seconds after the shuttle left the pad it exploded - exactly as predicted. The temperature at the time of liftoff was 29° Fahrenheit. Part of the blame was placed on the agency’s desire for results over safety and the levels of bureaucracy that prevented knowledge from being shared.
Although Boisjoly was proved right he was blackballed from the industry and grew increasingly bitter. After the Columbia explosion in February 2003, he spoke out again arguing that NASA should be shut down and some of its leadership imprisoned for manslaughter: “[NASA’s culture] is not going to stop until somebody gets sent to hard rock hotel.”
Boisjoly died at the age of 73.
(Image of the Challenger explosion is courtesy washingtonpost.com and copyright of the Associated Press)