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Group Think and the Space Shuttle Challenger

            On the morning of January 28, 1986, the nation watched as the ill-fated mission of the Space Shuttle Challenger 51-L, lifted off from Kennedy Space Center on NASA's twenty fifth space shuttle mission. 73 seconds into the flight, Space Shuttle Challenger exploded into a ball of fire. As the events unfolded live on national television, questions began to surface on the reasons for the catastrophic failure almost immediately. "The Challenger STS 51-L mission was commissioned to deploy the second Tracking and Data Relay Satellite and the Spartan Halley's Comet observer. Paramount to this mission however, was crew member Christa McAuliffe, the first space shuttle passenger participating in the NASA Teacher in Space Program " (Forest, 2005). McAuliffe would have conducted the first live educational broadcasts from space and transmitted them to classrooms throughout the world. The tragic and flawed decision to launch Space Shuttle Challenger was based on several long term contributing factors and the use of a flawed group decision support system that was further aggravated by its related mismanagement. The loss of life as well as the unique position that symbolized Christa McAuliffe as the first civilian working as a teacher in space had a profound impact on society, its attitude toward NASA and the U.S. Space programs in general. The outcome of this action created costs to society in terms of life, resources and public mistrust. NASA subsequently experienced years of setback for its related scientific research and operations. .
             Presidential Commission on the Space Shuttle Challenger Accident (the Rogers Commission) determined that the direct cause of the Challenger incident was related to a technical default. It was determined the inherent cause was related to faulty O-rings. However the Challenger incident also presented a flaw in organizational communication and ethics, including the ethics of organizational structure and culture as it promotes or discourages necessary communication and more importantly the ethics of groupthink.

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