27 Aug 2009

Choice – Current Reviews for Academic Libraries

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August 2009, Vol. 46, No. 11

Science & Technology \ Astronautics & Astronomy

McDonald, Allan J. Truth, lies, and O-rings: inside the space shuttle Challenger disaster, by Allan J. McDonald with James R. Hansen. University Press of Florida, 2009. 626p bibl index afp; ISBN 9780813033266, $39.95. Reviewed in 2009aug CHOICE.

This book is a management and engineering biography of the author’s work with NASA and Morton Thiokol, Inc., before the Challenger flight and during the analysis and investigations after the disaster. McDonald, a highly experienced engineer, was the senior management representative from Morton Thiokol, manufacturer of the solid rocket booster for the space shuttle. He recommended against the Challenger launch, but was overruled by Morton Thiokol upper management and NASA. McDonald, in collaboration with aerospace historian Hansen (Auburn Univ.), describes in detail the solid rocket joints and the O-rings that were responsible for the disaster. McDonald carefully documents the fact that the O-ring problem was well known to both Morton Thiokol and NASA. He states, “I really believed that if the O-rings were to fail, it would be at ignition during the 0.6 second period. The whole thing would explode on the launchpad….” The rest of the story is well known. NASA told the Challenger crew to launch, and the vehicle exploded at 50,000 feet. This is a major contribution to the literature of the management of technology as well as to the history of the space program. It is especially recommended to engineering and management libraries.
Summing Up: Highly recommended. All levels/libraries. — A. M. Strauss, Vanderbilt University

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