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Truth, Lies, and O-Rings: Inside the Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster

3.93  ·  Rating Details  ·  103 Ratings  ·  19 Reviews
What they didn’t want you to know

"We all watched in shock and disbelief whenChallengerwas lost. Probably no one felt more disappointment and regret than Allan McDonald, who had warned us not to launch that day. His story tells of loss, grief, and the eventual rebuilding and recovery."--Robert "Hoot" Gibson, former Space Shuttle pilot and commander

"A major contribution
Hardcover, 648 pages
Published April 26th 2009 by University Press of Florida
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Community Reviews

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Jan 19, 2016 terpkristin rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, kindle, 2016
Depressing but fascinating. I couldn't put the book down. The amount of CYA that was done, the level of non-cooperation with the Rogers Commission by NASA MSFC and Thiokol...I'd wish it weren't true. But some of the astronauts that I've worked/interacted with, as well as the former Shuttle PM (Wayne Hale) recommended the book, so I think it is probably more true than not. More terrifying, the shuttle crews that this disaster impacted (because Challenger was not an isolated o-ring incident; it wa ...more
Aug 20, 2015 Jeff rated it really liked it
Recommended to Jeff by: Freakonomics podcast
I listened to a Freakonomics podcast about failure and it referenced this book during an interview with Allan McDonald ( It's a long one - almost 600 pages - and it took me awhile to get through it, but I enjoyed the read very much. Although the book was at times overly technical for my tastes, it was a fascinating read about the known O-ring problems in the solid rocket motor joints that precipitated the Challenger explosion, as well as the investigatio ...more
Apr 15, 2012 Jamie marked it as to-read
A testament to one of the greatest case studies on existential risk, Al McDonald's text is one of the most exceptionally documented, detailed and insightful works on the emergence of catastrophic risk produced.

As one who manages enterprise and operational risk in global financial processing, Al's work provides an invaluable illustration into the encroachment of the political into the realm of technical risk. I've yet to encounter a similar work that is so well documented and objective, yet makes
Jun 02, 2009 Lyn rated it really liked it
Shelves: adult
My father worked for Morton-Thiokol at the time of the Challenger disaster. While he hasn't read this book yet, he says that this is the person he trusts to tell the truth.

It was great to hear this first-hand account and to compare it to my father's stories and my own memories. I was surprised at how much I actually understood as a child. There were a few surprises, but not many. I guess my father did a good job explaining it all.

Allan McDonald writes like you'd expect an engineer to write. The
Mar 20, 2013 Christian rated it it was amazing
I think most of us know the official causes of the Challenger disaster. But this book examines the disaster through one of the engineers aside from Roger Boisjoly that raised concerns about the launch.

While some of the sections are repetitive through the book, because of the technical complexity I find it a necessary evil. Having said that, the book is remarkably easy to read and doesn't have the mish-mosh of TLAs one would expect of engineering and scientific writing. The background, the accid
Feb 21, 2016 Jennifer rated it liked it
This is the first extensive account I have read of the Challenger disaster. The book seems so patently biased to me that I am left wondering how much of it I can believe and feeling that it's necessary to read another account. However, after 500 pages on Challenger, it's definitely time for a break.

The good - It's detailed. To a fault. McDonald was there for most of what happened before and after the disaster, and so the details are covered in-depth. I really feel McDonald omitted nothing signif
A very personal account

If you're a space techno geek and want to really understand the problems Challenger faced and the misguided decision to launch that fateful day, this is a book for you.

Al McDonald became the most hated man by NASA and Morton Thiokol management in the aftermath of Challenger. McDonald who raised concerns about the Orings for over a year was the first to tell the world what the inner dialog between NASA and its contractor MTI was like the night before the launch.

Ron Frisard
Jun 26, 2016 Ron Frisard rated it it was amazing
Being an engineer myself, this book showed me that when people are put into difficult situations that very few react for the better good and stand up to tell the truth but Mr. McDonald did. Allan McDonald should be celebrated for his courage to take on his employer and NASA about what really happened the day of the Challenger disaster. Not only did he speak up, he was relentless in getting the shuttle program back up and running.
I fully enjoyed hearing this story from the man himself with exact
Mar 27, 2016 Alice rated it liked it
This is a difficult book for me to review. It is a very technical book, chocked full of engineering terminology, acronyms and complex engineering concepts. It was a hard slog for me, with no engineering background or experience.
The Challenger disaster was so tragic and sadly it was totally avoidable. McDonald's book details the failings of NASA and Morton Thiokol to prevent the preventable, resulting in the deaths of seven astronauts in a fiery explosion, witnessed by families on the ground and
Christopher Prosser
Interesting aspect of the disaster. I liked the first hand accounts of some of the key meetings earlier in the book, but grew tiresome of the authors insistence that his memory is perfectly accurate and everyone else is wrong. Having learned much about the fallibility of human memory, I think there are multiple experiences that happen in any event. I didn't finish the book.
Brent Mckay
Jul 20, 2016 Brent Mckay rated it really liked it
Fascinating overview of the Challenger disaster and government dysfunction, from a whistle-blower who revealed the underlying causes of the accident to the Presidential (Rogers) Commission. Too long and too full of engineering details and personal squabbles in places, but who cares, it's a great historical document. McDonald was right about everything that mattered, and suffered quite a bit for his dedication and opinions.
Feb 18, 2015 Rich added it
Read it for my work book club. Too long, needlessly detailed, sometimes very interesting. Wouldn't recommend.
Jan 07, 2016 Gregory rated it it was amazing
Very interesting book!
Dustin Gaughran
Reads like a technical manual. If you paid attention to this in 1986, then most of it will be a highly detailed, highly technical recounting of this unfortunate event from the perspective of the ultimate insider. And you'll be reminded once again that this national tragedy could have easily been avoided.
Oct 25, 2013 Fred rated it it was amazing
Behind the scenes view of what took place before, during & after the Challenger disaster. Also set the stage for the Columbia disaster later on. Great read if you want to more than what was fed to us by mainstream media.
Sep 30, 2009 Srinivas marked it as to-read
Feb 12, 2010 Mark rated it liked it
Shelves: science
Reads like my neighbor wrote it and title is verkacht. Much interesting information.
Dec 28, 2015 TaurianDoll rated it liked it
Very technical in its presentation but still an interesting read.
Oct 17, 2014 Paul rated it it was amazing
First half great, second half quite tough going but worth it.
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“one cannot legislate, dictate, or veto the laws of physics, and politics has no place in technical decisions. The” 0 likes
“The primary element of the SRBs was the solid rocket motor provided by Morton Thiokol. USBI supplied the forward and aft aluminum skirts, the external tank attach ring for attaching the SRBs to the ET, the explosive bolts for holding the SRBs on the mobile launch platform, the pyrotechnics and electronics for the SRB separation and recovery system, the hydrazine-powered hydraulic thrust vector actuation system for moving the solid rocket motor nozzles for steering the vehicle, the booster separation motors (four each on top and bottom of each solid rocket booster to separate the SRBs from the ET after motor burnout), and the nose cap, frustum, parachutes, and recovery system for the SRBs. To” 0 likes
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