The Reagan Administration pushed hard for NASA to launch shuttle mission 51L, before it was ready. 73 seconds into the launch, the shuttle exploded, killing seven people and leaving a nation traumatized. Richard Cook, the lead resource analyst at NASA for the Solid Rocket Boosters (SRBs), was the first to warn of possible catastrophic failure.
His memo, which detailed astronaut concerns and warnings from the shuttle builders at Morton Thiokol, were ignored by top NASA officials and members of the Reagan administration. In the aftermath of the explosion, NASA launched an investigation to "discover" the cause of the disaster. Though within NASA there was absolute certainty about the O-ring joint failure, they began a cover-up by publicly proclaiming that the cause of the explosion was unknown.
A Reagan administration Commission perpetrated the same lie. And when Richard Cook realized that the Commission was not interested in revealing the truth, he acted as a true patriot and hero and leaked the original O-ring warning documents to the New York Times. His article set off a cascade of disclosures about the events leading up to the disaster, including revelations by Morton Thiokol engineers that they had tried to stop the launch.
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I strongly advocate listening to this book if you are interested in the Reagan years. We get a fantastic insight into William Rogers who shows up in Nixon era history. Also this book would be an interesting case study for people who want to know how large organisations can make a bad decision, how a project can have conflicting objectives leading to lives lost.
The author reads his own work, therefore not professionally produced. I recommend the following: put the playback speed to 1.2x then the pauses are less pronounced, and do not listen to any other audiobooks until this one is completed so you get used to the sound quality
thank you Mr Cook for writing this book. You are too humble and you did amazing work. Listeners of this audiobook recognise your contribution and hard work. Personally reading your own book must have been tough but cathartic? Thank you!
- Mr. E. Sheffield