NASA Case Study - Institute for Ethical Leadership (IEL)...

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Institute for Ethical Leadership (IEL) Rutgers Business School–Newark and New Brunswick Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey 1 Washington Park Newark, NJ 07102-3122 973-353-1134 Fax: 973-353-1136 1. Case Study:  Responding to Groupthink and Faulty Reasoning at NASA from Meeting the   Ethical Challenges of Leadership  by Craig E. Johnson On January 31, 2003, America’s space program suffered its second shuttle disaster when the  Columbia  disintegrated on reentry into the earth’s atmosphere.  All seven aboard died in the explosion.  The accident occurred nearly 17 years to the day after the  Challenger  explosion.  That disaster also took  the lives of seven astronauts, including the first teacher headed into space.  Space shuttle  Columbia ’s troubles began when a piece of foam the size of a flat-screen television broke  off the propellant tank and hit the spacecraft 82 seconds after liftoff.  The debris struck with a ton of force  and probably caused a 6- to 10-inch hole.  This opening allowed superheated gas to enter the craft when it  came back to Earth. The day after the launch, NASA officials reviewed tracking videos.  This footage showed the debris strike  but didn’t reveal any damage because the pictures couldn’t pick up details smaller than 2 feet.  Five days  after launch, the mission control team in charge of the  Columbia  flight first discussed the possibility that a  piece of insulting foam might have damaged the shuttle’s left wing.  Mission project leader Linda Ham  downplayed the likelihood that the shuttle had been seriously compromised.  She pointed out that the  group had earlier concluded that foam, which routinely comes off during shuttle launches, wouldn’t do  any significant damage.  Foam damage was considered a minor maintenance problem that could be taken  case of between trips. Other engineers and managers at NASA were not convinced that the foam strike was  insignificant.  Bryan O’Connor, NASA’s top safety official, ordered a hazard assessment.  Those carrying  out the assessment requested permission to ask for additional satellite images from the Pentagon to  determine whether there was damage to the orbiting ship.  Ham denied their request in part because the  shuttle would have to slow in order to position the wing for a photograph.  This maneuver would disrupt  the mission.  The hazard assessment group was then forced to depend on the conclusions of a team of 
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This note was uploaded on 01/31/2012 for the course EXPOSITORY 101 taught by Professor Mr during the Spring '06 term at Rutgers.

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NASA Case Study - Institute for Ethical Leadership (IEL)...

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