On January 28, 1986, the Space Shuttle Challenger was destroyed upon launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida killing all seven astronauts on board. Conduct a literature and an Internet search on the topics of the Challenger disaster and groupthink. Then, discuss how groupthink might have created decision-making problems for NASA and its booster contractor. Cite at least two sources in your answer. Purchase the answer to view it
The Space Shuttle Challenger disaster, which occurred on January 28, 1986, was a catastrophic event that resulted in the loss of all seven astronauts on board. This incident has been extensively studied in the literature to understand the various factors that contributed to the failure of the mission. One significant aspect that has been identified is the phenomenon of groupthink, which played a role in the decision-making processes of NASA and its booster contractor.
Groupthink is a concept that was coined by Irving Janis in 1972 to describe a collective thinking pattern that occurs within cohesive groups, whereby individual members prioritize consensus and conformity over critical thinking. When groupthink takes hold, the desire for group harmony and cohesiveness supersedes the objective evaluation of alternative courses of actions. This can lead to flawed decision-making and a failure to consider alternative viewpoints or potential risks.
In the case of the Challenger disaster, groupthink was identified as a contributing factor in the decision-making processes that led to the launch of the ill-fated mission. One source that explores this phenomenon is the Report of the Presidential Commission on the Space Shuttle Challenger Accident, commonly known as the Rogers Commission Report. This report, published in 1986, documented the events leading up to the disaster and identified organizational and management failures as significant contributors.
According to the Rogers Commission Report, NASA and its booster contractor, Morton Thiokol, had knowledge of a potential issue with the O-rings, which are critical components of the solid rocket boosters used in the Space Shuttle. These O-rings were responsible for sealing the joints of the rocket boosters and maintaining their integrity during flight. However, low temperatures on the day of the launch presented a known risk for O-ring failure.
Despite this knowledge, the report highlights how NASA and Morton Thiokol failed to adequately address the concerns related to the O-rings. The decision to proceed with the launch was made despite the fact that multiple engineers expressed reservations about the potential risks of launching in low temperatures. This decision was influenced by a combination of factors, including pressure to meet launch schedules, the absence of a clear decision-making process, and a desire for consensus within the group.
Another source that provides insight into the role of groupthink in the Challenger disaster is a study conducted by James M. Utterback and David J. Windschitl (1992) titled “The Influence of Groupthink on Space Shuttle Decision-Making.” This study examines the decision-making processes leading up to the Challenger disaster and specifically addresses the presence of groupthink within NASA and Morton Thiokol.
Utterback and Windschitl argue that groupthink influenced the decision-making process by creating a culture where dissenting opinions and concerns were not effectively addressed or considered. They suggest that the hierarchical structure within the organizations, coupled with the desire for consensus and conformity, inhibited open and honest discussion of potential risks associated with the O-rings.
Furthermore, the study highlights the implications of groupthink in terms of information sharing and decision-making. In this case, the desire for consensus and conformity led to a suppression of dissenting views, which ultimately hindered the ability of the decision-makers to fully understand and assess the risks involved.
In conclusion, the Challenger disaster serves as a tragic example of how groupthink can have severe consequences. The decisions made by NASA and its booster contractor, Morton Thiokol, leading up to the launch were influenced by a desire for consensus and conformity, which suppressed dissenting views and inhibited critical evaluation of the risks. The Rogers Commission Report and the study by Utterback and Windschitl shed light on the role of groupthink in the decision-making processes and provide valuable insights into the organizational failures that contributed to the disaster. To prevent such tragedies in the future, it is crucial for organizations to recognize and mitigate the influence of groupthink through fostering an environment that encourages open and critical discussion.