The Challenger Disaster - Responsibility of Morton Thiokol Inc.

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The Challenger disaster was not only a disaster in terms of the destruction of the spacecraft and the death of its crew but also in terms of the decision-making process that led to the launch and in terms of the subsequent investigation into the "causes" of the disaster. The decision to recommend for launch was made by lower-level management officials over the objections of technical experts who opposed the launch under the environmental conditions that existed on the launch pad at the time. Furthermore, the lower-level managers who made this decision--both NASA and contractor personnel--chose not to report the objections of the technical experts in their recommendations to higher levels in the management chain- of-command to…show more content…
A more appropriate ethical analysis would seek to understand the ways in which the decision-making process itself fostered or hindered responsibility among individuals within the organization and of the organization itself. In this respect, when viewed as a problem of responsibility, the Challenger disaster presents a much more insightful lesson on the nature of decision-making in a large organization such as NASA. While it seems clear that the decision that led to the explosion of the Challenger was made by those lower-level managers who chose to ignore the objections of technical experts who opposed the launch, the subsequent investigation revealed how the decision-making processes within NASA (and it contractors) worked to limit the agency of decision-makers and to obscure accountability for their decision-making. The problem of responsibility in the decision-making process focuses upon three issues: the availability of information, the role of technical specifications and formal regulations, and the management chain-of-command. Each of these factors contributed to the exercise of poor judgment and to the obscuring of accountability in the decision-making process. The availability of information--more precisely the lack of information--had an impact upon the decision-making process in three different ways. The technical experts who recommended against launching were not aware of the nature of the

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