Author Topic: RIP -- Allan McDonald, engineer who refused to approve Challenger Launch  (Read 461 times)

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Online steve58

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On Jan. 27, 1986, Allan McDonald stood on the cusp of history.

McDonald directed the booster rocket project at NASA contractor Morton Thiokol. He was responsible for the two massive rockets, filled with explosive fuel, which lifted space shuttles skyward. He was at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida for the launch of the Challenger " approve or disapprove a launch if something came up," he told me in 2016, 30 years after Challenger exploded.

His job was to sign and submit an official form. Sign the form, he believed, and he'd risk the lives of the seven astronauts set to board the spacecraft the next morning. Refuse to sign, and he'd risk his job, his career, and the good life he'd built for his wife and four children.

"And I made the smartest decision I ever made in my lifetime," McDonald told me. "I refused to sign it. I just thought we were taking risks we shouldn't be taking."

McDonald persistently cited three reasons for a delay: freezing overnight temperatures that could compromise the booster rocket joints; ice forming on the launch pad and spacecraft that could damage the orbiter heat tiles at launch; and forecast rough seas at the booster rocket recovery site.

He also told NASA officials, "If anything happens to this launch, I wouldn't want to be the person that has to stand in front of a board of inquiry to explain why we launched... ."
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Offline Gusington

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Wow, that is quite the story.
"I'm not even dead and I'm rolling over in my grave."

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