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Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster and Ethical Issues Case Study

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Updated: Aug 25th, 2021

The case study details the procedures that took place before the launch of the Challenger Space Shuttle. The author notes that NASA was under pressure from politicians and competing space agencies, which is why the management pushed for the launch despite insufficient testing and the faulty design of the O-rings. Delays due to weather conditions put more pressure on the management and the team. As a result, the O-rings did not close properly, causing an explosion of the Challenger soon after the launch. Seven astronauts were killed in the blast.

The key ethical issues evident in the case were the lack of communication between managers and poor safety culture, which prevented adequate technology testing before the launch. The primary ethical issue, in this case, was the lack of a proper safety culture. It manifested in the management’s decision to launch the shuttle despite insufficient testing and the faults in the design of the O-rings. Since both of these problems increased the risk of explosion during launch, the decision of the management violated the ethical principles of public good and human well-being. Upholding these principles is among the key professional duties of engineers because failure to do so may result in terrible accidents. Besides exploding in the air, the shuttle could have fallen, harming even more people. Hence, the case illustrates the consequences of unethical decision-making in engineering.

Nevertheless, there was another option of how the case could have progressed. Better decision-making from the management could have prevented the explosion from happening. For example, the management could order further testing and delay the launch until the trial has been finished. Additionally, the managers could have canceled the launch to fix the faults in the design of the shuttle, thus also avoiding the explosion. Their subordinates could have also influenced the progression of the case. For instance, drawing the attention of the higher management to the problem could have helped to resolve the failure in communication. This, in turn, could lead to a delay or cancellation of the launch. All in all, both the managers and the subordinates should have prioritized safety by insisting on further testing and design corrections. Stronger safety culture and ethical decision-making would have assisted NASA in avoiding the disaster.

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IvyPanda. (2021, August 25). Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster and Ethical Issues. https://ivypanda.com/essays/space-shuttle-challenger-disaster-and-ethical-issues/

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IvyPanda. (2021, August 25). Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster and Ethical Issues. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/space-shuttle-challenger-disaster-and-ethical-issues/

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"Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster and Ethical Issues." IvyPanda, 25 Aug. 2021, ivypanda.com/essays/space-shuttle-challenger-disaster-and-ethical-issues/.

1. IvyPanda. "Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster and Ethical Issues." August 25, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/space-shuttle-challenger-disaster-and-ethical-issues/.


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IvyPanda. "Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster and Ethical Issues." August 25, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/space-shuttle-challenger-disaster-and-ethical-issues/.

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IvyPanda. 2021. "Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster and Ethical Issues." August 25, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/space-shuttle-challenger-disaster-and-ethical-issues/.

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IvyPanda. (2021) 'Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster and Ethical Issues'. 25 August.

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