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Roger Boisjoly-The Challenger Disaster Abdul Muqtadir Ansari  Fairleigh Dickinson University
Thesis Statement 3. Abstract 2. References 2 . Introduction 4.CHALLENGER DISASTER Table of Contents 1. Results of Whistle Blowing 6. Justification of the dissents 7. Whistle Blowing [ Methods and dissents] 5. Conclusion 8.
Larry D. p. 211-227) .CHALLENGER DISASTER Abstract 3 This case study mainly focuses on the Roger Boisjoly's attempt to prevent the launch of the Challenger and subsequent quest to follow Boisjoly's experiences before and after the Challenger disaster raise numerous ethical issues that are integral to any explanation of the disaster and applicable to other management situations. second. to demonstrate the extent to which the ethical ambiguity that permeates the relationship between individual and organizational responsibility contributed to the Challenger disaster. 1988. Boisjoly was targeted and was blamed for not whistle blowing before the launch of the challenger Shuttle. Underlying all these issues.” (Browning. So in this analysis. this paper has two objectives: first. “In analyzing this fundamental issue. I will explain the reality and will answer the critics who were against Roger Boijoly. to reclaim the meaning and importance of individual responsibility within the diluting context of large organizations.
Roger Boisjoly didn’t loose his ethical values. He also protested at the later stages of launching of the shuttle. at every point. This is because of his ethical values and having a fear of loss of life of crew members.ring problem or the unfavorable weather condition during the launch of the shuttle. . even during Discovering Leaks in the Primary Seal. he tried to whistle blow whenever it was possible for him to do it. during the earlier stages of development of the shuttle. his strong feelings against the launch. His ethical values urged him to protest and caution NASA about the safety concerns associated with the launch of the shuttle. he just tried to save humanity. Boisjoly did everything he was ethically obligated to do. he risked his career and livelihood only to prevent any fatal accident and hence this proves that whatever Roger Boisjoly did was ethically right and in turn his whistle blowing changed the future towards the safe side for the future generations to be associated with it for a better tomorrow. I agree with the action taken by Roger Boisjoly case of the Challenger Disaster.CHALLENGER DISASTER Roger Boisjoly-The Challenger Disaster 4 After reading and analyzing in depth about the Challenger Disaster case. At every step. O. he cautioned his senior authorities about the risks and dangers associated with the mechanism of the shuttle and he didn’t stop and continued his protest at all stages in the development of the shuttle. The main reason I support him is because. by speaking out at every possible level and from time to time expressing his strong concerns and. where ever he felt. at the end.
An elastomer is a material that can be deformed dramatically and recover its shape completely. The cold weather. and public trust. The Challenger accident was the result of a faulty sealing system which allowed exhaust flames from the Solid-Fuel Rocket Boosters (SRB) to vent directly to the external tank.CHALLENGER DISASTER Introduction Definition of whistle-blower 5 “Whistle-blowers are seen as people who "sound an alarm from within the very organization in which the work. as to whether the fatal launch should have taken place. rupturing the tank and causing the explosion. the giant black rubber loops that help seal the segments of the SRBs. corporate. which seals the joint between two solid rocket booster sections. the SRB manufacturing company from time to time. provided uncharted waters for the operation of the SRBs. The O-ring is made of a fluoroelastomer. we will try to get a clear picture about the role played by Roger Boisjoly and to what extend he was responsible for the disaster and indeed whether he was late in whistle blowing or not. All of these things will be discussed in our case.” [NC State University] On 28 January. So in this case. because of a threat to public interest". NASA identified the failure due to the improper sealing of the O-rings. Concerns were being voiced by Roger Boisjoly of Thiokol. some of the coldest in Florida history. The article "Whistleblowing and Trust: Some Lessons from the ADM Scandal " focuses on the question of personal. . 1986 the Challenger space shuttle blew up 73 seconds after launch. 7 lives and three billion dollars worth of equipment were lost. A rubber band is an example of an elastomer.
Whitacre. whistle-blower(s) who observe the wrongdoing. In other words. Roger Boisjoly found out certain defects and errors in the hardware of the shuttle. 1985. As a result. whistle-blowing is a dynamic process involving at least three social actors. in the early stages of the development of the shuttle. Brewer & Selden. each of which we consider. 1992). by ourselves (Miceli & Near. no whistle-blowing case can be described as typical. It is evident from his statement published by himself in a seminar 20 years after the disaster of the Challenger shuttle.” [Near. Perry. immoral or illegitimate practices under the control of their employers.. Further. 4).. as we saw in the case of Mr. “The significance of starting with January. we attempt here to determine the extent to which the definition can be improved through consideration of other disciplines' perspectives. Marcia. define it as such and report it. there are several elements of it that are controversial (Near & Miceli. “Elsewhere we have defined whistle-blowing as: "the disclosure by organization members (former or current) of illegal. Whistle-blowing is in fact a series of steps. then. 96] To start off with. 1985. Miceli. 1992) and others (e. each of whom takes actions in response to the others. where each player takes actions. Although this definition has been widely used. 1985). decisions are made and tradeoffs considered that causes variation in the process. Janet P. possibly over a number of years (Dozier & Miceli." (Near & Miceli. results from my observations made . At any point. 1995.CHALLENGER DISASTER Whistle Blowing [Methods of disagreement and dissent]: “Three things are required for whistle-blowing to occur in organizations: 6 wrongdoer(s) who commit the alleged wrongdoing. 1987). and recipient(s) of the report of wrongdoing.g. p. to persons or organizations that may be able to effect action.
My notebook entry on August 15. 1985. I spoke about my belief that the low ambient temperature prior to launch was responsible for such a large witness of hot gas (approximately 5500 °F [3040 °C]) blow-by but NASA Program Management insisted on that position being softened for higher and final review board presentations.CHALLENGER DISASTER during the post flight inspection of hardware from Flight 51C which was launched on 7 January 14. my concern about the joints increased due to the lack of attention being given to this problem by MTI.” ( Boisjoly. it is quite evident from the following: “Again. I found that hot combustion gases had blown by the primary seals on two field joints and had produced large arc lengths of blackened grease between the primary and secondary seals. The first meeting was held on August . there was another scenario where Boisjoly wrote in the form a letter complaining about the O-Ring problem.1985 reads as follows: "An attempt to form the team (I was referring to the SIRM Seal Erosion Task Team) was made on 19 July 1985. May’06). I was ordered to MSFC to present a preliminary report prior to formal FRR meetings. This attempt virtually failed and resulted in my writing memo 2870:FY86:073. The presentations were given at MSFC in February at three successively higher level review boards with exclusions and refinements in content made at each board level. Subsequent to reporting my findings. This memo finally got some response and a team was formed officially. This was during the early 1985 where he cautioned the management about the problem with the hardware. The ambient temperature was 18 to 22 °F (-8 to -6 °C) several days prior to launch and in the 60 . I participated in the formal FRR's for flight 51E which was scheduled for an April launch.65 °F (16 to 18 °C) range at launch time and resulted in a seal temperature of 53 °F ( 12 °C) -which was calculated after the damage was found.
So from the above two statements made by Roger Boisjoly. The memo reads as follows: "Subject: SRM O-Ring Erosion/Potential Failure Criticality. then it is a jump ball as to the success or failure of the joint because the secondary O-ring cannot respond to the clevis opening rate and may not be capable of pressurization. This letter is written to ensure that management is fully aware of the seriousness of the current O-ring erosion problem in the SRM joints from an engineering standpoint. 1986. May’05).Firstly. both before ad after the disaster of the Challenger Shuttle .CHALLENGER DISASTER 8 15. we can conclude that indeed he was worried about the life of people associated with the shuttle and thus proves that ethically he was right and he showed his dissent in this way. This position is now drastically changed as a result of the SRM 16A nozzle joint erosion which eroded a secondary O-ring with the primary O-ring never sealing." "If the same scenario should occur in a field joint (and it could). ( Boisjoly. 1985. “ Thompson has identified and discussed four distinct types of dissents." ”. They are as follows: . The memo was stamped COMPANY PRIVATE by my boss and had a very limited distribution until I read it to the Presidential Commission on February 25.m. 1985 at 2:30 p. The mistakenly accepted a position on the joint problem was to fly without fear of failure and to run a series of design evaluations which would ultimately lead to a solution or at least a significant reduction of the erosion problem." The memo I referred to is the one I wrote to the Vice President of Engineering at MTI on July 31. Let us now consider the ways Roger Boisjoly showed his dissent. The result would be a catastrophe of the highest order--loss of human life.
g. when he met Arnie Thompson to discuss the blow-by scenario and the effect of cold temperature on O-ring resiliency. but to no avail.CHALLENGER DISASTER 1) Protesting “within the organization”.e. i. p. again in this case too he was asked to soften and ignore it.e protesting within the organization while still doing one’s job during the development process of the shuttle and the second one will be after the aftermath of the shuttle. in Roger Biosjoly’s case. This type of dissent can be classified in the first form of dissent mentioned by Thompson. The only reason I think he didn’t whistle blew the situation can be due to the fact that. while continuing to do one’s job 3) The “open obstruction of policy” 4) “Covert obstruction” (e. partially while he was still in the organization and after being outside the organization. Roger Boisjoly reported this to his supervisors and he was told to ignore the problem.”[Thompson. He even wrote memos and gave presentations on the same. In the later cases. while still doing one’s job 9 2) Expressing disagreement “outside the organization”. we can understand that. but to protect the lives of the people involved with it. Leaks).e protesting within the organization while still doing one’s job. From this. explaining them in detail. the first and second one will be. not for name or fame. Roger Boisjoly along with his team were showing concern. As we can see from time to time. i. Even during the time of the launch of the . he was not having solid full proof evidence for the same. In the beginning. it is quite evident that when it was discovered about the leaks in the primary seal. i. 557-559 ].
went offline to huddle. you will be more convinced about the efforts and the dissent showed by Mr. 1986. Boisjoly worked for 27 years in the aerospace industry. They thought the naysayers might be operating on gut reaction. . Boisjoly and four other Thiokol engineers used a teleconference with NASA to press the case for delaying the next day’s launching because of the cold.”[Martin. he slapped down photos showing the damage cold temperatures had caused to an earlier shuttle. “How the hell can you ignore this?” he demanded. 27. At first this seemed persuasive. Four Thiokol vice presidents. Thiokol’s general manager. occurred and thus took the lives of the crew members and thus reducing the value of life which is unethical. Mr. Boisjoly said. told his fellow executives to take off their engineering hats and put on management hats. It had lifted off on a cold day. not science. If you look at this article.CHALLENGER DISASTER 10 shuttle. On the night of Jan. 2012] All these cases and examples can be classified in the first form of dissent classified by Thompson. but not this cold. But it was one night and one moment that stood out. Mr. February. They told NASA it was a go. They later said that they had worried they lacked conclusive data to stop a launching that had already been postponed twice. all engineers themselves. Roger and his team again recommended not to launch the shuttle and that too in the bad weather which was again overlooked and finally the disaster which could have avoided. Roger “Mr. At one point. Makers of critical components had the power to postpone flights. Jerry Mason. according to commission testimony.
As a result of it. He gave explanations about why he felt the O-rings had failed. i. (1984). to respect the person and property of others.CHALLENGER DISASTER 11 “ The public servant is morally bound. in which Boisjoly was one of the witnesses called. Mr. this time around. he had to resign from his post and was left jobless and it affected his livelihood. we will throw more light on our main character.” [Wilibern. which he had written six months before the disaster. to tell the truth. there were certain bad effects for both Roger Boisjoly and for NASA and the companies associated with it in the making of challenger shuttle. and to abide by the requirements of the law. just as are other persons. to keep promises. The disclosure of the internal memo.e. After the commission gave its findings. It was quite evident from the article published below: . was a bombshell which exploded on the NASA and the booster manufacturing company he was associated with. Results/Consequences of the dissent shown: In the case of Roger Boisjoly. And he has to pay the consequences for it by resigning from the job after President Ronald Reagan ordered a presidential commission to review completely about the disaster. Boisjoly found himself shunned by colleagues and also by the managers and thus he resigned from the company. Roger Boisjoly went public for the first time openly accusing both his company and NASA responsible for it. So these are the two types of dissents present in the case and in the coming part of it. Y.] After the disaster of the Challenger Shuttle. When Roger Boisjoly went public for the first time after the disaster. I will talk about the results of those dissents. Both whistle-blowers and people accused of wrongdoing suffer whether the allegations are ultimately sustained or not. Though in our case study. Roger Boisjoly. Boisjoly gave the presidential commission who were investigating the disaster internal corporate documents.
“Mr.” [Martin. both were dismissed. Boisjoly was awarded the Prize for Scientific Freedom and Responsibility by the American Association for the Advancement of Science. hugged him after his appearance before the commission. He became sought after as an expert in forensic engineering. the first American woman in space. double-vision and depression. . A former friend warned him. 2012] But his sacrifices and sincerity paid off and he lived up to his ethics. “She was the only one. Boisjoly told The Los Angeles Times in 1987. Because he was right. and he was shunned by colleagues and managers.” Mr.” he said in a whisper to a Newsday reporter in 1988. February. it played an important role in everyone’s life in a safe. much appreciated his efforts and as a result of it he got many recognitions and awards.”” [Martin. “If you wreck this company. “The only one. He filed two suits against Thiokol.CHALLENGER DISASTER 12 “ Thiokol cut him off from space work. if you look at the brighter side of the world. February. Sally Ride. 2012] There was also one more positive result on the whole and it was on the bright side for the future. and spoke to more than 300 universities and civic groups about corporate ethics. He yelled at his dog and his daughters and skipped church to avoid people. secure and free tomorrow. he said. So on the whole. He had headaches. an act called “Whistle blower Protection Act of 1989 (Enrolled Bill [Final as Passed Both House and Senate]” came into effect and we can say that Roger Boisjoly’s case played a significant effect for that to happen. I’m going to put my kids on your doorstep. He later said he was sustained by a single gesture of support.
So based on my view. but I would defend his action by saying that. followed the rules and regulations to an extend that it didn’t clash with his own personal values and standards which he has set for himself. I would appreciate his actions and the efforts he has put into trying to stop from something bad to happen. consulted with his senior professionals and cautioned them in a good way about the worst consequences that could happen if the shuttle was launched. 2. Ethically speaking. We can get to know more about it from the following statements: .CHALLENGER DISASTER Justification of the dissents: 13 Different people have different kind of thinking and upbringing. he maintained a certain code of ethics. he did it in a good way. but I would like to defend his actions by saying that he wasn’t rude. Code of ethics differs from person to person and from culture to culture. Some people disagree with him that he should have whistled blew earlier before the shuttle was launched. The main important ethical values and moral principles that were at stake in this case were of not protesting against anything which can cause danger to humanity in any form. To fulfill his duties and responsibilities of an engineer by making sure that the job assigned to him of running the booster was implemented successfully. he presented memo. He has to obey the orders of the company and listen to them in any situation. should follow the standards maintained by the company. because he was following the safety guidelines which everyone should follow. The various obligations or responsibilities of Roger Boisjoly were as follows: 1. An employee who is working in a company. but he should not go against the moral values which are present in them. Roger did was not against the company. but it was for the betterment of the company. if we see that what Mr.
Consultant Ron Westrum (see accompanying story).CHALLENGER DISASTER 14 “ His former employer does not share a Boisjoly's eagerness to discuss his actions and their meaning. where his message is well-received. January." says Westrum. I can conclude that Roger Boisjoly was a good nature person who had many good qualities and was obliged to many ethical values and hence he should be given respect according to the work and sacrifices he has done to abide by good ethical values. he's a hero. chairman of the ethics committee for the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). who follow professional ethics issues. says that society needs these so-called Chicken Littles. "I would encourage people to be courageous." Regardless of how Boisjoly is ultimately labeled. "I think he will do a great deal to change the ethical perspective [of future engineers].” [Pennisi. those like IEEE's William Middleton and General Motors Corp. He visits college campuses about twice a month. 1990] So from all the above points mentioned along with the references given. And now he's sort of blacklisted." says William Middleton. But colleagues applaud Boisjoly's efforts to raise the issue of professional ethics and to stress its importance. "He took the matter into his own hands and dealt with it by going public on a whistle-blowing campaign. For those of us who do work in the ethics area. ." He has turned that experience into a campaign for stronger professional ethics and for the need to speak out against risk. "He's one of a very small group of people who have had the courage of their convictions. "The students see him as a role model. chairman of the ethics committee for IEEE USA. even if the penalty is stiff. saying that the subject is closed. A spokesman for Morton Thiokol declined to comment on any matter relating to Boisjoly." says William Middleton.
CHALLENGER DISASTER 15 I don’t think so that Roger Boisjoly should have acted differently as because during the time of protest. he was not having a solid proof which could have made them understand It. Page 906. That is why in my eyes Roger Boisjoly was a hero because of his never dying attitude towards the right thing. I can justify his point with the following statements: “According to the hierarchical model. responsibility for political outcomes falls on the person who stands highest in the chain of authority. Dec.”[ Thompson. . 1980]. I would defend him by mentioning the fact that NASA and his company were just busy to make the shuttle ready for the launch and ignored many of his warnings and also told him to keep quiet in that case.
And really. nor misses their names in employee recognition events. the chief medical officer for England’s National Health System. No one addresses the life ruination. and hope they are among us. To finish my essay. but to base our hope of remedy in ordinary systems on the existence of extraordinary courage is insufficient.” [Berkes. it’s the perfect crime. I would like to salute Roger Boisjoly for his sincere efforts he put in to save humanity while being at work and also after resigning from the company. The torture leaves no mark. Much better than Jimmy Hoffa’s demise with that pesky media and all keeping his name alive and the issues addressed. wrote. ostracism and suicide. Because it’s like a Holmes’ dog that didn’t bark. No one notices the absence of whistle-blowers.CHALLENGER DISASTER Conclusion 16 To conclude. the total and complete losses. Whistle-blowers are disappearing much more cleanly and completely than any CIA black site prison. if any) in literal limbo.” I pretty much scoured the literature. and the resultant world goes on while leaving the whistle-blower (and surviving family. he played a very important role in spreading awareness about workplace ethics and how one should act in any kind of situation and live a life with the head always towards the sky. nor has any notion at all about their well-being. and no one addresses whistle-blowing. I would like to share few points mentioned about him below: Professor Liam Donaldson. 1987] . We should “applaud heroes. He is a role model to many people and brought awareness among people to protest against the wrong. No one sees them missing in group photos.
5/15/2006. 1990 retrieved from : http://www. Thompson. 45 (5). Dies. “The Possibility of Administrative Ethics.” Public Administration Review.CHALLENGER DISASTER References 1. “ Roger Boisjoly. Janet P. 555-561. Types and Levels of Public Morality.edu/stable/1954312 8. 22. 73.” Published by: Near. 2012.” Published by Browning. 01492063.nytimes. 102-108. 4. Warned of Shuttle Danger” published by Douglas Martin Published on February 3.the-scientist. published by Dennis Thompson on September/October 1985.com/2012/02/04/us/roger-boisjoly-73-dies-warned-of-shuttledanger. 17 “Interpreting the Challenger Disaster: Communication under Conditions of Risk and Liability. Y.fdu.jstor.view/articleNo/10849/title/Challenger-sWhistle-Blower--Hero-And-Outcast/ 7.org.com/?articles.Morton Thiokol and the Challenger Disaster)" Online Ethics Center for Engineering. 1996 Special Issue. "Pre-Disaster Background (Ethical Decisions .. “Challenger's Whistle-Blower: Hero And Outcast” published by Elizabeth Pennisi on January 20.html?_r=0 6. 3. Retrieved from : http://www. . 1988. “ Whistle-blowing: Myth and Reality.. Vol. “Moral Responsibility of Public Officials: The Problem of Many Hands” published by Dennis F. 2. Organization Environment 2 (3): 211227. Miceli. Public Administration Review. Marcia P. (1984). Journal of Management. Page 905 of 905-916 retrieved from http://www. 44 (2). Wilibern. Issue 3 5. Larry D.libaccess.
“The only one” published by Howard Berkes in 1987 retrieved from : http://incompatiblewithlife.CHALLENGER DISASTER 9. “Whistle-blowing” by NC State University retrieved from : http://ethics.php 10.edu/basics/whistle/study.wordpress.csc.ncsu.com/2012/02/04/the-only-one/ 18 .
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?