The Challenger Launch Decision Risky Technology, Culture, and Deviance at NASA, Enlarged Edition
by Diane Vaughan
University of Chicago Press, 2015
Paper: 978-0-226-34682-3 | Electronic: 978-0-226-34696-0
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226346960.001.0001
ABOUT THIS BOOKAUTHOR BIOGRAPHYREVIEWSTABLE OF CONTENTS

ABOUT THIS BOOK

When the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded on January 28, 1986, millions of Americans became bound together in a single, historic moment. Many still vividly remember exactly where they were and what they were doing when they heard about the tragedy. Diane Vaughan recreates the steps leading up to that fateful decision, contradicting conventional interpretations to prove that what occurred at NASA was not skullduggery or misconduct but a disastrous mistake.

Why did NASA managers, who not only had all the information prior to the launch but also were warned against it, decide to proceed? In retelling how the decision unfolded through the eyes of the managers and the engineers, Vaughan uncovers an incremental descent into poor judgment, supported by a culture of high-risk technology. She reveals how and why NASA insiders, when repeatedly faced with evidence that something was wrong, normalized the deviance so that it became acceptable to them. In a new preface, Vaughan reveals the ramifications for this book and for her when a similar decision-making process brought down NASA's Space Shuttle Columbia in 2003.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY

Diane Vaughan is professor of sociology and international and public affairs at Columbia University.

REVIEWS

“A landmark study."
— Atlantic

TABLE OF CONTENTS

List of Figures and Tables

Preface to the2016 Edition

Preface

One: The Eve of the Launch

Two: Learning Culture, Revising History

Three: Risk, Work Group Culture, and The Normalization of Deviance

Four: The Normalization of Deviance, 1981-1984

Five: The Normalization of Deviance, 1985

Six: The Culture of Production

Seven: Structural Secrecy

Eight: The Eve of the Launch Revisited

Nine: Conformity and Tragedy

Ten: Lessons Learned

Appendix A: Cost/Safety Trade-offs? Scrapping the Escape Rockets and the SRB Contract Award Decision

Appendix B: Supporting Charts and Documents

Appdenix C: On Theory Elaboration, Organizations, and Historical Ethnography

Acknowledgments

Notes

Bibliography

Index