Lessons from the Challenger Launch Decision

On January 28, 1986, seven astronauts abroad the Space Shuttle Challenger lost their lives as the orbiter exploded 73 seconds after launch. The investigation that followed uncovered both the technical causes of the accident and some underlying, contributing causes. This case, primarily based on the findings of the investigation as detailed in the Report of the Presidential Commission on the Space Shuttle Challenger Accident, is meant to highlight key aspects of technical communication challenges and decision-making.
Point of Contact
Rogers, Edward W.
GSFC – Office of the Chief Knowledge Officer (OCKO)
Alternate Title
Challenger Accident
Copyright Date
Latest Revision
Decision making, Engineering design, Organizational culture, Risk management, Safety
Number of Pages
13 pages

This case has been approved for public release under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution—No Derivatives 4.0 International Public License. The views expressed in this document do not reflect official policy or position of NASA or the United States Government. It was developed for the purpose of discussion and training by the Goddard Space Flight Center’s Office of the Chief Knowledge Officer. This material is extracted from publicly available sources and personal interviews with key mission personnel. It is not a comprehensive account of the mission and should not be quoted as a primary source. Feedback may be sent to Dr. Ed Rogers, Chief Knowledge Officer, at Edward.W.Rogers@nasa.gov or (301) 286-4467.