The Challenger Shuttle Disaster lessons

January 28, 2021, marks 35 years since the explosion of NASA‘s space shuttle Challenger. This was the worst accident to happen immediately after the launch. The shuttle was carrying seven astronauts, and all died in the instant aftermath. They included Christa McAuliffe, the first space teacher, Judith Resnik, the second female NASA astronaut in space, Ronald McNair, the second African-American in space, Commander Dick Scobee, Ellison Onizuka, the first Asian-American astronaut, Gregory Jarvis, Hughes Aircraft payload specialist, and pilot Michael Smith.

There were an immense shock in NASA and its defense and aerospace partners. Flights were resumed after two years of redesigns, internal and external investigation, plus other necessary measures. The accident led to cancellations of some programs like the schedule to launch space shuttles from California and Florida and the astronaut jetpack’s postponement that carried spacewalkers on satellite ransom missions.

The accident’s investigations took a long time and were carried out by the Independent Rogers Commission. The commission found an abundance of safety issues. Some of the findings were that managers did not acknowledge the risks associated with launching a space shuttle in cold weather and unsound launch decision-making processes. The technical error that was recognized was the damaging of seals that prevent the leakage of hot gases via the joint during the rocket motor’s propellant burn.

Challenger’s demise led to the publication of many documentaries, books, and vigorous discussions. In 2003, there was another lethal accident that involved the Columbia shuttle that also killed seven astronauts. NASA was urged to focus more on safety measures.

Safety is essential, especially when launching human missions, as they involve more dangers and are technically complex. Safety is a topic that has been discussed in all sectors of the space. For instance, during the 2019 human exploration, NASA carried out a though shakeup, citing some of the schedule and cost concerns. The Artemis moon program is intended to take astronauts on the moon in 2024. NASA said that the progress is moving on swiftly, and it is carrying out critical tests to ensure the program goes as planned. 

It is projected that private companies such as Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic will be taking people into space using their spacecraft in the near future. Last week, Axiom Space said that it would take its first private crewed mission to the International Space Station (ISS). NASA should carefully check out all needs like safety to ensure the spacecraft corresponds to the mission’s specifications. McAlister said that spacecraft design should meet NASA’s requirements.

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