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Truth, Lies, and O-Rings: Inside the Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster Hardcover – April 26, 2009


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Truth, Lies, and O-Rings: Inside the Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster + Introduction to Mechatronic Design + Design of Machinery with Student Resource DVD (McGraw-Hill Series in Mechanical Engineering)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 648 pages
  • Publisher: University Press of Florida (April 26, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0813033268
  • ISBN-13: 978-0813033266
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.4 x 1.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (49 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #901,932 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"We all watched in shock and disbelief when Challenger was lost. Probably no one felt more disappointment and regret than Allan McDonald, who had warned us not to launch that day. His story tells of loss, grief, and the eventual rebuilding and recovery." - Robert "Hoot" Gibson, former Space Shuttle pilot and commander "A major contribution to a difficult episode in the history of human spaceflight." - Roger D. Launius, Division of Space History, Smithsonian Institution "McDonald tells the heartbreaking tale of how he saw his words of warning ignored, and the fateful consequences of that decision." - Donald C. Elder III, Eastern New Mexico University"

Book Description

What they didn't want you to know

"We all watched in shock and disbelief when Challenger was lost. Probably no one felt more disappointment and regret than Allan McDonald, who had warned us not to launch that day. His story tells of loss, grief, and the eventual rebuilding and recovery."--Robert "Hoot" Gibson, former Space Shuttle pilot and commander

"A major contribution to a difficult episode in the history of human spaceflight."--Roger D. Launius, Division of Space History, Smithsonian Institution

"McDonald tells the heartbreaking tale of how he saw his words of warning ignored, and the fateful consequences of that decision."--Donald C. Elder III, Eastern New Mexico University

On a cold January morning in 1986, NASA launched the Space Shuttle Challenger, despite warnings against doing so by many individuals, including Allan McDonald. The fiery destruction of Challenger on live television moments after launch remains an indelible image in the nation’s collective memory.

In Truth, Lies, and O-Rings, McDonald, a skilled engineer and executive, relives the tragedy from where he stood at Launch Control Center.  As he fought to draw attention to the real reasons behind the disaster, he was the only one targeted for retribution by both NASA and his employer, Morton Thiokol, Inc., makers of the shuttle's solid rocket boosters. In this whistle-blowing yet rigorous and fair-minded book, McDonald, with the assistance of internationally distinguished aerospace historian James R. Hansen, addresses all of the factors that led to the accident, some of which were never included in NASA's Failure Team report submitted to the Presidential Commission.

Truth, Lies, and O-Rings is the first look at the Challenger tragedy and its aftermath from someone who was on the inside, recognized the potential disaster, and tried to prevent it. It also addresses the early warnings of very severe debris issues from the first two post-Challenger flights, which ultimately resulted in the loss of Columbia some fifteen years later.

Allan J. McDonald retired as vice president and technical director for advanced technology programs at ATK Thiokol Propulsion in 2001. He was the director of the Space Shuttle Solid Rocket Motor Project at the time of the Challenger accident and, later, vice president of engineering for space operations during the redesign and requalification of the solid rocket motors. James R. Hansen is professor of history and director of the Honors College at Auburn University.

--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Own them all if you can, but if you only own one, make it "Truth, Lies and O-Rings."
Terry Sunday
I am a large fan of Richard Feynman who served as one of the investigators for the Presidential Commission, Challenger/NASA failure.
Ross Duclair
Indeed he took very thorough notes at the time of Challenger as he wanted to make sure he got his story straight.
Jay M. Chladek

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

49 of 49 people found the following review helpful By Jay M. Chladek on September 20, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I first heard about this book a few months ago at [...]. Indeed, the title seemed somewhat tabloid I would say as it was about as blunt as an anvil falling on Willie Coyote's head in a Road Runner cartoon. I had some reservations picking it up until I learned that one of the authors was James Hansen, a former NASA historian who is currently a history professor at Auburn University (and of course, writer of "First Man" about Neil Armstrong). McDonald was a bit of a wildcard as although I recalled his name from the Challenger investigation, this was his first book and I wasn't exactly sure how it would be written. But, I knew if Hansen was involved after reading First Man and its even handed portrayal of Neil, then the book had to be in good hands. James takes his responsibilities very seriously and he doesn't stick his name with a project unless he knows it can provide a proper insight into the historical perspective of people and events.

Allan McDonald was both and engineer and manager working for Morton Thiokol on the space shuttle solid rocket booster program. He wasn't one of the individuals involved with the original design of the motor, but he was heavily involved during the ramp up of production after the shuttle's first test flights. Ironically it was his participation in the accident investigation of an explosion at one of the SRB propellant casting facilities that brought him into the shuttle SRB program. He became a program manager for the Filament Wound Casing SRBs being tested and built for shuttle launches from Vandenberg AFB (that program was cancelled after Challenger). He also became the chairman of the Senior Materials Review Board for the Solid Rocket Motors.
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Laurenc SVITOK on April 12, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I was waiting for this book not only because I read only one Challenger disaster related document before - it was the Presidential Commission Report - but the author is Allan McDonald (together with Neil Armstrong's biographer James Hansen), the very Allan McDonald who not only helped to reveal the circumstances leading to the 51-L launch that cold January 1986 morning, but also participated in the redesign of the SRBs after the tragedy and contributed heavily to the successful Return to Flight two years later.
Allan McDonald - several decades Morton Thiokol employee in varios positions, mainly SRB related - became notoriously known during the hearings of the Rogers' commission when he was brave enough to stand up and point out that the original Thiokol decision was "not to launch", which decision was later changed based on NASA pressure on Thiokol management, which decided to ignore the own engineers warnings and changed their mind to "go for launch". Both NASA and Thiokol management were not ready to confess this information to the commission trying to protect themselves.
The commission members were completely shocked to hear this information which at the end helped to identify all the technical and management problems leading to the failed launch. McDonald became very unpopular with his own management and certain people from NASA, however, he stayed with the company and lead the redesign process of the faulty SRB joints culminating in the successful Return to Flight STS-26 mission.
There is a lot of technical stuff which requires some knowledge of the SRB design and terminology, but in the book like this it is inevitable and the reader will soon become familiar with both.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Terry Sunday TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on June 30, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The explosion of NASA's Space Shuttle "Challenger" on January 28, 1986, with the loss of seven astronauts, is like the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. No one who saw the tragic event on live television will ever forget where he or she was at the time. A government-industry team soon determined that unusually cold temperatures at the Cape the night before liftoff prevented O-rings in the aft field joint of the Morton Thiokol Inc. (MTI) right-hand Solid Rocket Motor (SRM) from properly sealing. Hot gases blew past the faulty seals, eroded a hole in the motor case and doomed the Shuttle and its unsuspecting crew.

In the 20-plus years since the disaster, many books on the subject have appeared, written by reporters, scholars and even a former NASA employee, with varying levels of detail and technical accuracy. "Truth, Lies and O-Rings" is different. Author Allan J. McDonald, who at the time was MTI's Director of the Shuttle SRM Project, was at the Cape when the Shuttle lifted off, and he watched in horror as it disintegrated 50,000 feet over the Atlantic in the clear Florida sky 73 seconds later. Mr. McDonald knew for certain that the O-rings in the field joint would seal more slowly--or perhaps would not seal at all--when they were cold. He was one of only two people who had spoken out against launching, to his own managers and to NASA managers, during a meeting the night before. His book relates, in great detail and with many new, revealing insights, his personal story of how the "Challenger" disaster happened and how it changed his life. In particular, it sheds light on one of the biggest issues surrounding the flawed decision to launch on that cold winter day--why did MTI first recommend against launching, then change to a "GO" recommendation?
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