Allan McDonald dies at 83

Gomez Adams

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Allan McDonald was in charge of the solid rocket boosters on the space shuttle. He tried in vain to stop the Challenger launch in 1986 that ended up exploding, killing all 7 astronauts on board.

"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."​
McDonald persistently cited three reasons for a delay: freezing overnight temperatures that could compromise the booster rocket joints; ice forming on the launch pad and spacecraft that could damage the orbiter heat tiles at launch; and forecast rough seas at the booster rocket recovery site.​
He also told NASA officials, "If anything happens to this launch, I wouldn't want to be the person that has to stand in front of a board of inquiry to explain why we launched... ."​
 

Zeedox

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(edited for bad memory)

My minds going. By that date, I was in the military. I can only hazard I was at Simpson's to buy something on that date. The scene is just too vivid. i had assumed it was in my teens when I worked there but I was 26 that year.
All sorts of customers were gathered around the large screens. The take-off happened, a small smattering of applause (yeah we still did that to the TV back then) and then BOOM.

It was so surrealistic the first few seconds after. The place fell graveyard silent and it took a few minutes for all the people to process before the crowd drifted apart.
 
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Gomez Adams

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I was hung over. I was sitting on the couch, playing solitaire, drinking a cup of coffee. I watched it leave the pad, looked down for a second to the cards, looked back up and saw the one booster spiraling off.

At first, I thought "Cool! Never seen the boosters like that before." I was waiting to see the shoot from the booster deploy. Then it switched to the huge cloud and debris flying off in all directions and I just remember my stomach seeming to just fall out of my body to the floor.

I must have looked like a lobotomized madman. Just sitting there, mouth agape, staring at the TV. I have no idea how long I sat there like that. I think at least an hour.

I was 18.
 
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Hugo Stiglitz

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Before my time. I was a toddler. Still fucked up though that the guy said don't launch and they launched anyway. I thought at NASA if one person says no go then that's it. Mission scrubbed.
 

Zeedox

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Before my time. I was a toddler. Still fucked up though that the guy said don't launch and they launched anyway. I thought at NASA if one person says no go then that's it. Mission scrubbed.

I'm not sure NASA ever went this far into a launch count-down and then halted. IIRC they were under heavy pressure/scrutiny because of McAuliffe on crew as a Teacher-Astronaut. She had been chosen from over 10,000 applicants and hundreds of classrooms around the country were tuned in to watch. She had been expected to also do two live classes from space.
 
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Gomez Adams

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IIRC they were under heavy pressure/scrutiny because of McAuliffe on crew as a Teacher-Astronaut.
That's exactly it.

NASA's budget was being cut. The whole McAuliffe thing was a huge boost to NASA's image. In their opinion, they HAD to get Challenger off the ground.

That's what happens when the marketing department starts running the show and the engineers are sidelined. Boeing just found out all about that as well, only they killed nearly 300 people doing it.