Safety reminder from Challenger anniversary

Blog Category: 
General Space

Thirty years ago this Thursday the seven people in this image died.

They were on their way to do something important for themselves, their families, their communities, their country and importantly the entire planet Earth.

Every human who puts their lives into the hands of others, particularly the hands of project teams, are among the bravest.

In the case of these astronauts of the NASA Space Shuttle Challenger, the complexity of the project, the timing, the delays and setbacks around the time of launch in addition to the then NASA culture and its decision-making process, all conspired to ensure they’d be remembered every 28th January for being so brave.

They paid the ultimate price because an o-ring failed due to extreme cold conditions and the failure of anyone to do something about the possibility of a problem, even though there had been warning signs prior to launch. A tiny flaw on a spacecraft brought down Challenger and its astronauts just 73 seconds after lift-off.

These days, even though space travel has been highly commercialised, it is expected fatalities of astronauts aboard spacecraft like Challenger will never happen again.

Entrepreneurs, their enterprising companies and State-run space agencies are all in the mix to be the first, the cheapest, the fastest, the best, you name it, in the quest to know more about space. But these days, human safety and risk management over arches space programs like never before.

Sadly, however, unmanned spacecraft are still blowing up.There’s been several in the last year or so. There was also a recent fatality linked with flight testing for space tourism.

Let’s hope the legacy of the Challenger spacecraft and its brave astronauts is the achievement of excellence in the safety and risk management culture of project teams working on space missions everywhere as 28th January comes round each year.

Image credits:  NASA ...Challenger crew, left to right, Christa McAuliffe who won the “teacher in space” contest, Gregory Jarvis, Judith Resnik, Francis Scobee, Ronald McNair, Michael Smith, Ellison Onizuka.