The Courage to Listen

23 Jan

I remember where I was on January 28, 1986.

I had just arrived at a rural hospital in New York on a work trip when I saw the horrible video of the disintegration of the Space Shuttle Challenger. Everyone was stunned. There would be no work accomplished that day.

73 seconds after liftoff, there was a devastating explosion, just like Bob Ebeling had feared.

Ebeling was one of five booster rocket engineers at NASA contractor Morton Thiokol who tried to stop the 1986 Challenger launch.  Very cold temperatures were predicted for that fateful morning and the O-ring seals would stiffen and fail. As a result, burning rocket fuel would leak and a disaster would happen.

Eberling was the first person to sound the alarm. He called his boss at Thiokol. He had data that pointed to the tremendous risk. Eberling and other engineers argued for a launch delay.

Please … wait for warmer weather was their plea.

But the pressure was on to launch and their voices were ignored.

And so 7 people died, including teacher, Christa McAuliffe, the first U.S. civilian to travel into space.

Eberling passed away earlier this year having carried the guilt with him for 30 years.

I wonder how the others felt who didn’t listen. What happened to them?

Eberling had the courage to speak up, however, they didn’t have the courage to listen.



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