Magazine article The Washington Monthly

Team Player

Magazine article The Washington Monthly

Team Player

Article excerpt

It turns out that an engineer named Rodney Rocha was the leading white hat of the Columbia shuttle story. At a meeting of NASA and contract engineers five days after the Columbia launch, to assess potential damage from the broken-off foam, the participants agreed images of the impact area were needed from telescopes or spy satellites. They designated Rocha to convey their concern to shuttle managers. Rocha tried six times, report James Glanz and John Schwartz in The New York "Hines. Each time the managers turned him away. One told him that he refused to be a "Chicken Little" Another emailed: "I consider it to be a dead issue."

That reminds me of what a shuttle manager said to the engineers who wanted to postpone the Challenger launch because of the danger of frozen O-rings. "I'm appalled," said George Hardy. He was appalled that the engineers would dare suggest postponing the launch. Hardy then reminded the engineers that the contract of their employer, Morton Thiokol, which built the shuttle boosters, "is coming up for renewal soon," in an attempt to intimidate them into silence. …

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