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In the daily running in life, people engage in many premeditated and involuntary activities. Most of the impromptu ones that come up require rush and closest to accurate decision making. It is from these that individuals make most mistakes at the end of the day. It may be considered a better way of expressing regret, or just instilling the consolation required to move on, but many call out on 20/20 hindsight bias as a would-be solution to show their best at certain situations considered unsatisfying.
These situations may be either failures or activities that resulted to unexpected results. The space shuttle Challenger has had space exploration enthusiasts, patriots and ethics specialties among others, succumb to the hindsight bias by speculating all the other positive possibilities were they in the same position as the decision making panel on that fateful day.
The Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster
Back in 1986, the anticipated launch of The Challenger happened with all the unexpected results. After several rescheduling, the final day of reckoning was set and fixed. The 28th of January 1986 saw the perishing of seven astronauts in a mission viewed live by millions all over the world. 73 seconds into the flight, the shuttle experienced glitches that led to it disintegration in a scenery that many thought to be an explosion.
The high-density cameras noticed the first malfunction when they recorded dark smoke coming from the right solid rocket booster. This was about 67 seconds from take off. The next six seconds sealed the fate of the shuttle and its crew. The smoke, upon analysis, was the initial sign that there was not a complete sealing of the relevant joints (Dunbar 2007). Burning of grease, rubber and the O Rings were therefore the cause of this smoke. The O-rings are responsible for preventing heated gases from escaping outwards.
The Hindsight Bias
A closer look back into the events leading to the actual launch would have been enough to change the schedule of the lift-off. I believe that everyone is a specialist in his/her own field. The event was already flocking with aeronautical specialists in form of engineers and weather specialists who, until the actual launch, were still noticing defective conditions. These conditions were unfavorable and I would have respected their observation.
This was the first problem that encountered the system that was leading the whole project. It is sad to come to a final realization that NASA opted for the faulty design knowingly just to tend to the requirements of some greedy politicians driven by their hunger for power (Oberg 2006). The role of the politicians, according to my view, should be to create the environment required for such projects to take place.
The best way of doing this is through enabling of the funds drafted in the forwarded budget and transferring the monitoring responsibilities to watchdogs and commissions that consist of a panel of specialists in the relevant fields. Since they understand better the procedures taken towards the success of such missions, they present the project progress with more efficiency. Politicians view everything only from a political point of view, which does not end well with such specialists as aeronautical researchers and engineers.
The morning for the scheduled launch was a cold one. The temperatures had dropped to as low as 8oF (Texas A&M University (TAMU) 2000). The lowest temperature required for the O Rings to remain functional was 53 oF. Noting this, the organizers should have heard the engineers’ pleas to halt and postpone the launch. The O-rings functionality was compromised at this level as no testing on record had proven otherwise.
Regardless of the environment or nature of work, colleagues working under the same organization are expected to share information as this reduces the misunderstandings that are a result of inadequate information on certain issues. It was realized that Robert Ebeling and Roger Boisjoly, engineers with the contracted Morton-Thiokol, had already identified the problem with the O-rings all through the testing (TAMU 2000). The rings burnt off with every test flight.
This led to the two engineer proposing different designs to be adopted into the final design. This new design performed better as it withstood more heat than the previous ones. Their proposal was declined by the NASA panel. Apparently, the management was trying to save on the resources dedicated to the project, and this was not to be the case in the end. The loss incurred, taking into consideration the fact that lives were lost, was way through the billions.
Management ought to learn to listen to the lower level workers proposals, as they tend to lead to high-level results so to speak.
We do understand the fact that a stitch in time saves nine. This does not only apply in personal life experiences, but also at our workplaces. As much as management expects utter performance from the employees, “we vastly underestimate the cost of effective safety precautions” (Yudkowsky 2007).
Safety precautions start here. At the Challenger, everything was tested and the defaults corrected. The fact that more were detected did not deter the scheduled launch of the Challenger. When such a risky endeavor is undertaken, I would expect that the final running would be at only optimal conditions. “Although the ice team had worked on the covering ice, there was still concern from the contractor’s engineers” (AlbertaRose 2010).
Also on the same is the fact that the test flights had emergency escape pods built in but these had to be removed from the final shuttle because it filled up on space left out for other devices (Spaceflight Now Inc.).
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The fact that NASA ruled out the possibilities of occurrence of problems sometime later into the flight shows that the mission was influenced heavily by the pride of accomplishing it in the management that steered the project. Some suggest that this was a recap of the Titanic all over again. Though they demand extra costs, precautions have proven to save more than they incur to adapt.
I admit that no one is perfect, but equipped with such information, I believe I would be able to avert the Challenger and grant it the honor it requires in the history books, a victorious one. If only it was possible too, I would direct that politicians fall back to their respective positions and stay away from the complicated proceedings until when called upon. The fact that most things proceed smoothly to their end when they do not interrupt should not be regarded as a coincidence, but a show of how to get the best from profiled projects.
AlbertaRose 2010. “Historical Space Accidents: Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster”. Web.
Dunbar, B 2007. NASA. STS-51L. Web.
Oberg, J 2006. “7 myths about the Challenger shuttle disaster”. MSNBC. Web.
Spaceflight Now Inc. 2010. “Challenger timeline”. Web.
Texas A&M University 2000. “The Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster”. Web.
Yudkowsky, E 2007. “Hindsight bias”. Web.