Among the variety of accidents that take human lives in the sphere of aviation, the cases of Challenger and Columbia remain to be one of the most significant and influential. The difference between these two accidents is about 17 years; still, many researchers and scientists find it necessary to compare their differences and details and understand how the concepts of aviation safety should be considered.
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The losses of these two space shuttles help to illustrate the risks that are connected with human intentions to explore space and consider a number of ethical, organizational, technological, and scientific aspects. The current paper aims at discussing the details of the two accidents and the lessons taken from Challenger and Columbia cases about the necessity to pay more attention to technological and organizational aspects of aviation safety.
Accidents and Findings
Challenger and Columbia were the disasters that changed the way of how aviation should work considerably. The accidents made the representatives in the sphere of space aviation more attentive with a number of issues. Challenger and Columbia had many differences and similarities, the evaluation of which can help to comprehend the worth of the events.
On the one hand, the accidents were similar to each other due to the evident facts that the mistakes were made by the NASA representatives and the inabilities to gain control over all aspects of the work. The point was that NASA had been informed by Morton Thiokol’s workers about the potential danger of the O-rings used in the spaceship before the flight. It was necessary for NASA to make fast decisions and change the current state of affairs.
The investigations of the accidents proved that lack of corporate culture and inabilities to make appropriate solutions turned out to be the roots of the accident of Challenger, and poor technological equipment led to the disaster with Columbia. Another important aspect of the accidents was the necessity to attract the attention of media.
The Columbia’s and Challenger’s missions had been discussed a lot before the actual flight in media, and people were bothered about the general impact of the accidents and less focused on the crucial technological aspects. The accidents were also similar in the number of astronauts, their gender and racial characteristics (seven astronauts with two women and one African-American in each), weather conditions (it was cold outside), and the premonition that something bad could happen.
On the other hand, Columbia and Challenger differed in regard to the reasons for why the accidents took place, the missions, and the outcomes. The first shuttle program, Challenger, took place in 1986. The accident was caused by the problems in the right solid rocket booster and the O-ring failure.
The damage of Columbia was caused by the problems in the left-wing because a piece of foam cracked the heating layer and led hot gases penetrating inside of the shuttle and overheating pneumatic wheel chassis. Still, if it is possible to say that the accident of Challenger could be prevented by changing a number of details in the shuttle, the same cannot be said about Columbia. Challenger was destroyed in 73 seconds of the flight; Columbia killed its passengers after re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere.
Lessons and Outcomes
One of the main lessons that can be taken after these two accidents are that NASA has much work to be done. It does not touch upon the technical aspects only. A lot should be changed in regards to the corporate structure and organizational issues.
NASA, like any other organization, is a group of people who take responsibility for the lives of the crew and the outcomes possible for their family members. It is necessary to understand that the control of the flight is not always possible to gain.
The equipment, especially the space equipment, is complicated by its nature. In spite of numerous attempts to provide confidence, unexpected outcomes can take place. These facts have been proved by the accidents of Columbia and Challenger.
Unfortunately, the lives of 14 people were lost, and their families, as well as the whole nation, lost a lot. One more crucial lesson connected with the accidents was the necessity to work out the ejection escape system. In both shuttles, there was no opportunity to create the appropriate one.
After the accidents had taken place, NASA started paying more attention to this particular aspect so that the crew could get a chance to be saved in cases of emergency.
In general, history shows that it is not always easy to create a safe space flight and be confident in the positive outcomes of the operation. Challenger and Columbia were the accidents that influenced the sphere of space aviation a lot. Of course, it is hard to admit that 14 people died. Still, the lessons gained after the accidents remain to be crucial. NASA understood that their corporate culture and the organization of work had to be improved considerably. Those tragedies could never be forgotten, and their impact could not be neglected even in time.