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Remembering Allan McDonald the Engineer Who Said ‘No’ To the Challenger Launch

Long-time Slashdot reader Nkwe shares an article from NPR:

His job was to sign and submit an official form. Sign the form, he believed, and he’d risk the lives of the seven astronauts set to board the spacecraft the next morning. Refuse to sign, and he’d risk his job, his career, and the good life he’d built for his wife and four children.

“And I made the smartest decision I ever made in my lifetime,” McDonald told me. “I refused to sign it. I just thought we were taking risks we shouldn’t be taking….”

Now, 35 years after Challenger, McDonald’s family reports that he died Saturday in Ogden, Utah, after suffering a fall and brain damage. He was 83 years old.

“There are two ways in which [McDonald’s] actions were heroic,” recalls Mark Maier, who directs a leadership program at Chapman University and produced a documentary about the Challenger launch decision. One was on the night before the launch, refusing to sign off on the launch authorization and continuing to argue against it,” Maier says. “And then afterwards in the aftermath, exposing the cover-up that NASA was engaged in….”

He later co-authored one of the most definitive accounts of the Challenger disaster: Truth, Lies, and O-Rings — Inside the Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster. In retirement, McDonald became a fierce advocate of ethical decision-making and spoke to hundreds of engineering students, engineers and managers.


Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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