Type: Exploratory
Pages: 2 | Words: 524
Reading Time: 3 Minutes

After the Challenger disaster, the Roger Commission appointed by the President gave recommendations that focused on safety improvement. Safety measures had deteriorated within NASA, leading to the fatal accident. NASA embarked on redesigning of specific parts of the space shuttle deemed to have failed like the solid rocket boosters. National Academy of Sciences, as an independent organization, closely monitored the implementations. NASA also ensured that the safety practices required for the program were continuously improved and closely monitored. Thus, the organization created an office of Safety, Reliability and Quality Assurance. The administrator of the new office reported directly to the NASA administrator. The Roger Commission also criticized the launch schedule used by NASA. NASA reorganized the schedules and made them as realistic as possible. This would avoid quick preparations that often overlooked safety measures. The management also considered it wise to use expendable launch vehicles instead of the shuttle.

The Columbia disaster in 2003 brought into attention the laxity in safety within NASA. The Columbia Accident Investigation Board (CAIB) revealed how NASA had neglected the lessons learnt with the Challenger disaster. Even though NASA had established an office dealing with safety matters, it had slowly crept back to the old ways of operation (Vaughan, 2003). Safety was the last thing in the order of priority as more launches took center stage. These practices eventually led to another disaster seventeen years later.

It is notable that the management should have played a pivotal role in consulting with the engineers to avert both disasters. For instance, engineers from Thiokol expressed fears over the low temperatures on the eve of the launch; however, the management’s main concern was to follow the strict launch schedule. The changes that followed the disaster included restructuring of management to allow tight control. A reward system should have been incorporated to encourage the workers adhere more to the safety requirements. This could have worked if there was a proper reporting system that encouraged ideas from supporting staff on matters development.  

The organization’s adherence to progressive determination of safety should have contributed significantly to sustainability of the changes after the Challenger disaster. However, laxity crept led to the Columbia disaster seventeen years later. Moreover, NASA celebrated each launch despite the unrealistic operation schedules, which made the organization fail to realize signals of potential danger. For instance, the previous launches indicated that foam did fall off and tiles got damaged without detrimental effects on the shuttle. Maintenance of safety procedures was necessary through involvement of all stakeholders in making decisions.

NASA allowed the development of cultural trait and practices that were detrimental to safety. This included seclusion of sound engineering practices and reliance on past successes. An informal chain of command developed and encouraged decision-making processes operating outside the organizations rules. NASA management failed to recognize that it needed ideas from the staff to maintain a strong safety culture. The management also failed to realize that the organization was understaffed and the employees fatigued due to overworking. Ambitious launch schedules also contributed to safety lapse. It seems that NASA officials sacrificed safety in the interest of the corporate-driven agenda. All the flaws resulted into the Columbia disaster.

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