From Publishers Weekly
A gripping true-life thriller that describes the struggle to discover and disseminate the truth about the 1986 destruction of the space shuttle Challenger, this book provides new and startling material, presented in a spellbinding narrative with direct relevance to the current state of the US government. Former NASA resource analyst Cook, whose long public service record includes 20 years at the Treasury Department, rocketed from anonymous bureaucrat to public fame during the Challenger investigation, and later was awarded the Cavallo Foundation's Award for Moral Courage in Business and Government, for his efforts to uncover the facts about the faulty O-ring seals that led the shuttle's solid rocket boosters to explode. Easily the most informative and important book on the disaster, Cook's work is meticulously documented, augmenting his own insider knowledge with transcripts, memoranda, reports and interviews to provide the first truly comprehensive book on what happened on January 28, 1986, and why. Tracing the history of the space shuttle's design and development, Cook leads readers step-by-step, decision-by-decision to the tragic event. Rather than an accident, Cook concludes that the disaster was the result of Reagan's autocratic management style and closed-door decision-making process. Further documentation shows how the Rogers Commission, charged with investigating the explosion, was conceived as part of a cover-up effort, which also included collusion by some NASA managers, White House operatives and commission head William Rogers. By focusing solely on equipment malfunctions and internal NASA decision-making, it seems that Rogers evaded the most important question: why was it so important to those in power to launch the shuttle on that day? This account, featuring many players still working in government today, is essential reading on the topics of NASA and US government obfuscation.
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In the days following the space shuttle Challenger
disaster of 1986, Cook, then a budget analyst at NASA, leaked documents to theNew York Times
. The papers acquired significance for predicting that faulty rubber seals on the solid fuel rockets could trigger a catastrophe, as the official investigation indeed concluded. In this memoir and personal investigation, Cook justifies his leak, or, from another perspective, his violation of trust, and proposes a theory for why NASA managers launched after overruling objections from the rocket engineers. It is this: President Ronald Reagan wanted Challenger
in orbit with teacher Christine McAuliffe so that he could speak with her live during his State of the Union speech. Cook amasses technical evidence about violations of launch criteria, telephone calls between NASA and the White House, and hearsay from an astrologer who, Cook reports, said he was told personally by Reagan that he decided to launch. Whether Cook is holding a blank or a smoking gun, his book is sure to provoke controversy. Gilbert TaylorCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved