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The Challenger Disaster and Others

Do you believe that communication and technical writing played a significant role in the explosion of the challenger shuttle as well as other disasters? Do you see it as 50/50 communication and science, or 40/60? How do these disasters inform your own technical communication work?


I find it a little hard to answer the question about whether the communication and technical writing played a significant role in the explosion because I didn’t see where the article did go into specifics or quotes about what exactly was written. I always tend to see things 50/50. As the saying goes, “it takes two to tango.? Whatever went on, either side had the ability to ask for an elaboration, or to correct unclear instructions, and; therefore, create a response, furthering the understanding about where each party lies in their comprehension. These disasters inform my technical communication work by proving that one must take steps to make sure they are understood. I will have people outside my field test or read papers I write so that I know that my thesis and explanation are clear. Another way I can test my technical communication work is using a practice I learned in a Family Social Science therapy class. It is called parroting, and it is a good way to verify is someone understands your view or what you just said. After you say something, or someone reads something of yours, they say it back to you, from memory, perhaps in their own words.

I think that after reading one article it's hard to make an educated guess as to who is at fault. I think that there are a number of different reasons why the disaster occurred and many of them have to do with science and communication. To begin with, one communication error that I found was President Reagan saying the shuttle was "fully operational and ready to provide access to space" when it is obvious that these are space exploration missions where nothing is guaranteed not your typical airline. In addition to this mistake, when the astronauts knowingly moved forward without the backup "o-ring" mechanism it became a communication problem. These astronauts were communicating that it wasn't a huge problem. Some science reasons I feel that this failed include the compromises made between safety and cost. Science is constantly fighting for funding, and compromising on safety is never the way to go. In addition to this, the organizational pressure to launch is something that i would blame on science. I think NASA should have taken on more responsibility and made sure that the experiment was going to be a success before fully committing to the launch.

Yes, I do believe that technical communication had a part in the space shuttle disaster. After reading the article, I learned that a major cause of the Challenger disaster was due to the failure of an O-ring. Miscommunication about the functional properties of the O-ring mislead the astronauts into believing that the O-rings constituted an “acceptable risk? due to the duel system when in fact they operated on a single system which magnified the risk factor. It was stated in the article that the astronauts received memos about the newly designated risk factor and even signed off on them. Apparently, the information was not communicated in a manner that was received thoroughly and clearly.
I also believe that communication and science should be held at a 50/50 ratio for preventing disasters such as the Challenger and Columbia tragedy. If you have the scientific facts but do not communicate the date properly and leave the information up for interpretation miscommunication will likely occur. For example, referring to the space program as a “fully operational? system is miscommunication the reality of the situation in that it is, and was, an experimental system.
In the future, these examples of technical communication will guide me in writing in a manner that is very clear and in a language all will understand. Especially dealing with matters of human life, it is important to not have any information regarding the safety of human life up for interpretation.

It is always easiest to place the blame on the other party and that is exactly what everyone involved in these accidents has done. I do not think anyone or any party in particular is to blame; I believe this is just the effect of instances where science and communication were unbalanced. From the information given in the article, it was made evident that there was a sizable amount of pressure and desire to fly. This desire, pressure, or whatever it was, made the presidential commission and even the astronauts overlook the safety warnings that were sent their direction by NASA’s Aerospace Safety Advisory Board. From the presidential commission’s viewpoint, they had completed a number of similar flights without major incidence, so what was the difference if there was tile damage or not. The safety warnings were most likely perceived as messages that could be disregarded. In this case, communication was definitely broken. The science aspect was holding up its end, but the communication between all parties was just not there.

After reading the Challenger disaster, it is easy to try to blame someone. When a catastrophic disaster such as this people wants desire and has a need to find someone to blame. See I live in the County of Los Angeles, CA. In live in Antelope Valley. In my Valley there is a popular street named “Challenger.? This street was named to honor those whose lives have changed to the disaster. So knowing the history it is hard for me to place blame on someone, but the way I see it now is that the disaster was 40% communication and 60% science. I say this because I believe that it was a freak accident because the amount of communication that is needed to fly into space is tremendous. After reading this article I now see that my technical communication has to be sound. So that the message reaches the recipient and then I can get a good feed back.

It is hard to say if the technical writing is to blame for these accidents. I think it played a partial role, but mostly I think it was poor communication between people. There were so many contradicting things that anyone could get confused by. I think it was maybe a 40/60 or a 30/70, with the communication being the high. So many things could have gone wrong, so it is difficult to say who is at fault. I would hope that they have learned from their mistakes and errors, but who knows. If I was a technical writer for NASA, I would be very careful about what exactly I wrote and I would make sure that people would understand it. I would also try to get the facts straight so there would not be a lot of contradiction. I just hope a major disaster does not happen again with the space shuttles.

For me, it's hard to tell exactly which side would be at blame for the incident. I do believe, however, that poor communication had to do with a large part of the shuttle explosion. It is hard for me to believe that science had to do with the majority of it. I know in nature, there can be scientific mistakes, so how I see it, is 60/40. Usually when I hear or read about disasters or accidents, the blame is mostly veered towards the poor communicators. Which is why I think that the group project that we're working on is very important. It teaches us to construct instructions that the audience can comprehend in order to make the project successful. Without good communication it would be hard to successfully accomplish anything.

reading the article I like the part that says "most of us automatically assume,
incorrectly, that individuals are to blame in
disasters such as the Challenger."
Some errors can happen because of the complexity of the technology. I think thats a true statement. There will always be human error. The point lies around how much you test something like O rings, or how well the instructions are for making a space shuttle. Is there a book that was made by someone other than NASA on how to properly make a space ship. I think the point I'm trying to make is, this technology is all so new and because of disasters that happened with challenger and columbia, we can understand how one small thing can impact the large scale.
There is an argument that these shuttles had no overall objective, or the reason to go into space with the space craft was not given deeper thought that the desire to go into space. It seems that even with that statement you can make an objective eventually, I dont think communication is bad in nasa, there are problems, but a lot of what their dealing with is breaking technologies strapped on a huge tank of fuel that has to explode to propel this breaking technology into space.

If NASA has historically had problems with organization, as the article mentions, I think that poor communication probably had a lot to do with the Challenger Shuttle disaster. Although I'm sure the issue was made worse by the tense atmosphere, it still seems to have come down to an issue off poor communication. I think these scenarios only reinforce the importance of looking at my communications from someone else's lens. If I'm not being reader-centered in my writing, I ultimately could sacrifice clarity and the success of whichever project I am writing about.

I feel that the main issue here are the communications channels in and around the NASA organization. It appears in the article that all of the issues/findings were ducumented at one point in time, but failed to make it to the proper reader. In other incidences, the reader didn't perceive the issue as seriously as it were intended. Another communication issue is one that involved ethics.
Superiors having the scientist work on proving that the shuttle was not flight ready in my eyes was a poor way to deal with the findings. As in many items in this world built for transportation, there is wear/corrosion happening all the time. Knowing when an item will reach its max life span is only a guess at best. Especially dealing with such complex items/issues as a space shuttle. The shuttle disaster informed my technical writing by showing me that my messages not only need to be accurate, ethical, but also make it to the intended readers and that the messages are understood as intended.

Looking at the entire situation from the outside, I believe that the reason that the Challenger ran into so many snags, if you will, is due to the fact that for one, they did not initially prepare for what their final exploration was. They were supposed to go to Mars. Mars has a certain temperature, and that is one factor to prepare for when getting ready for a trip such as this. I wouldn't say that this could be blamed on one certain person, but this should have been thought up. In that the universe is so vast and the astronauts didn't know where they were going since Mars was cancelled, whoever was in charge takes some blame, but at the same time the scientists and engineers who prepared the space shuttle could have prepped it for where the final destination would be. This exploration was not just mining or testing speed, this was leaving the Earth's atmosphere so since the importance of this trip was so great, trial after trial should have been attempted. So whoever facilitates the testing would take the greatest burden, but I feel that there are more responsible.

There were many factors contributing to the unfortunate shuttle disaster as in many other disasters. Writers, engineers, designers and management start out with a mission to succeed at their chosen task and to anticipate hazards that impede upon their successful completion. The shuttle launches should always be considered as high risk activities. Precaution is essential and should never be downplayed in the pursuit of achieving a deadline or political outcome. When confusion and conflicting messages as to the safety of the shuttle mission surfaced, there should have been a complete investigation of the allegations before proceeding with the launch. This is very disturbing that memos were circulating to many key individuals, including the astronauts, highlighting that the shuttle system was given a critical rating of “1? for the charring issue with the O-Ring, meaning that ?failure could be catastrophic?. Since other launches with similar problems with the O-Ring had returned successfully, the warning was downgraded by many as an “acceptable risk?. With that example alone, I would propose that blame be shared among many individuals throughout the organization. The other disturbing revelation is that the NASA management in the review meeting the night before the flight of the Challenger based their decisions to approve the launch on the engineers ability to prove the shuttle was not flightworthy, instead of proof that it was flightworthy. This seems ludicrous and downright negligent. The technical engineers and writers did their part in warning the management and other key individuals (astronauts). NASA management sided on answering the question of flight as could we do this, rather than should we do this. It may not be deliberate distortion of the scientific facts, but certainly reckless endangerment of the flight crew. The technical communication may have needed to be stronger cautionary language with included more emphasis on potential disaster, but with that said, the word catastrophic was included in a widely distributed memo – can you be more clear than that?

In these instances I believe it is easy to see how science and technical writing truly come together. In this way, communication and technical writing did play a major role in the explosions. When working on something as complex as a space shuttle, there is no science that does not employ technical writing and vice versa. The scientists/engineers/builders of the space shuttles rely hugely on technical writing and communication in order to assess what needs to be done and what has been completed. In the same way, any people working as communicators or technical writers in the realm of NASA must know the science of the shuttles in order to properly do their job. Thus, when you are dealing with such a complex and delicate science, both science and communication must always be at fault when something goes wrong.

I believe that the cause of the disaster explosion of the challenger shuttle was merely due to bad communication. It stated in the reading that a major cause of the Challenger disaster was due to the failure of the O-ring. Due to the lack of communication, the astronauts believed that the O-rings constituted an acceptable risk due to the duel system, when really they operated under a single system which inflated the risk factors. It was also mentioned in the article how the astronauts were given written documents about the risk factors and signed them initiating that they understood. This proves that the information consisted in the documents were not clear enough for the astronauts to comprehend thoroughly. I also believe that science was to blame, it is a two way street with science and communication. You can’t possibly have one and not the other. You cannot communicate a message if you don’t have the right tools to operate or in other words its science, and vice versa with communication, you can’t have science by itself without communication because others won’t be able to understand the message behind the science. I think this article makes a great point in showing that in whatever project you do, you need good communication in order to have a success project. Good communication is what makes or breaks projects. There for it is very essential to have good communication skills in order to deliberate a good project, work, or whatever you might be working with.

After reading the article and doing some further investigation on the Challenger explosion, I would have to say in that the explosion was 40% communication and 60% science. Science and exploration have a degree of uncertainty that cannot be communicated. No matter how much thought and consideration go into examining all probable scenarios, it is impossible to communicate and troubleshoot all potential hazards that lie within the unknown.

In the field of space exploration, the blame is skewed due to the potential dangers that surround the field. Basic technical and professional writing, which most of us will be doing, will have a stronger role in the outcome because there will not be as many uncertainties.

I think the article is about extreme cases of how written communication plays a role in an unfortunate accident. An accident is what happened and no matter how much people need to find blame; life is full of accidents

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