The space shuttle Challenger disaster in 1986, along with the crash of the Columbia shuttle in 2003 are two famous tragedies that have shocked not only the US citizens but the whole world as well. Both accidents have caused a large media boom around themselves while also making NASA suspend shuttle flight operations after the catastrophe for a couple years. The details and reasons of disasters of both shuttles will be covered further in the work.
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According to the Challenger’s crash report, two rubber O-rings, designed separate the sections of a rocket booster, malfunctioned because of the cold temperature at launch (NASA’s John F. Kennedy Center par.15). The explosion happened 73 seconds after liftoff, resulting in taking lives of all seven members of the crew. The crew did not actually die because the shuttle broke up; people got killed because of the high impact of landing into the ocean. Honestly, the catastrophe would not probably happen if the launch was postponed a bit.
Before the launch, engineers have warned their superiors about the vulnerability of O-rings to low temperatures, and the morning of January 28 was extremely cold (“Challenger Disaster” par.4). Unfortunately, these warnings did not get as much attention as they should have. It was a hard lesson for NASA, which shows that you should not overlook the engineers’ warnings and should take any necessary precautions possible. Also, before the Challenger disaster, flights into cosmos were considered totally safe (Rothman par.1). When millions of people saw the tragic end of NASA’s Challenger, it was definitely clear that NASA no longer had that safe aura around them. As a result, NASA has held its fleet grounded for almost three years after the disaster.
Alas, Challenger was not the only shuttle that ended up so tragically. On February 1, 2003, the shuttle Columbia broke up on its way back to Earth, killing all the crew as a result. The report of the accident mentions that the crew was not even aware of the possible crash, as most of them were not even wearing their full equipment (Associated Press par.2). It was established that members of the crew died either from suffocation or from hitting an object when the shuttle got tumbled. The primary cause of Columbia’s disaster was the breaching of the spacecraft wing by the insulation foam (Howell par.2). Interestingly enough, similar incidents with the foam occurred before, and the existing problem was very well-known to NASA. Yet again, nothing was done to solve the problem, which only further proves the incompetence of NASA and their disregard of additional safety measures. Subsequently, NASA had to explain themselves later to the Congress and media for not taking any measures to get rid of the existing problem with the insulation foam. Just like in the case with Challenger, NASA had to halt all space flights for three years (Dowling par.12).
Tragic events of Challenger and Columbia shuttles have definitely caused a negative impact on NASA’s shuttle operation program. Witnessed by millions of people, the mistakes made by NASA that cost human lives would never be forgotten. Both disasters will be forever engraved in history as the examples of what the disregard of safety measures and precautions can lead to.
Associated Press. NASA Reports New Details of Columbia Deaths. 2008. Web.
Challenger Disaster. n.d. Web.
Dowling, Stephen. What Caused the Space Shuttle Columbia Disaster? 2015. Web.
Howell, Elizabeth. Columbia Disaster: What Happened, What NASA Learned. 2013. Web.
NASA’s John F. Kennedy Center. STS-51L. n.d. Web.
Rothman, Lily. How the Challenger Disaster Happened. 2015. Web.