How 'Groupidity' Blew Up the Space Shuttle

The 1986 space shuttle blowup reflects the stupidity of the crowd.
What caused the Challenger disaster? It's not what people think. Photographer: Bob Pearson/AFP/Getty Images

In our last class on policy failures, we discussed the 1986 Challenger space shuttle disaster. For those of you not old enough to remember, this was a catastrophic failure that took the lives of seven astronauts and put the relatively young space shuttle program in jeopardy. After the fact, it emerged that management had been warned by engineers at Morton Thiokol Inc. that it might have been too cold on that January morning to launch safely -- and launched anyway. An O-ring seal in one of the shuttle's solid rocket boosters failed in the sub-freezing temperatures, and the shuttle was destroyed, killing everyone aboard.

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