The Ride Report and STS 51-L – The Challenger Disaster

Today, 28JAN21 we mark 35 years from the first in-flight disaster in NASA’s history although unfortunately not the last. As called by President Reagan at the time, seven “Star-Voyagers” perished in front of a shock American public.

Coming out of this disaster, a report was written by Astronaut Prof. Dr. Sally K Ride who by now had left NASA and become a Professor. The official title of the report ( in PDF form below) was. “NASA Leadership and America’s Future in Space – A Report to the Administrator,” but will forever be known to the American Public as The Ride Report.

NASA logo

By Dr. Sally K. Ride

August 1987

On Bastille Day of 2019 in Seattle, by chance, I sat next to one of the last living engineers with his wife who worked for Thiokol in Utah on Space Shuttle solid boosters. When this came out in idol conversation, as I told him I had been a fan of Prof Dr. Richard Feynman, he assumed that I would regale him with the story of the “O”-ring freezing. He said he felt guilt about the way Thiokol had manufactured and tested its hardware, but it had been approved by NASA.

He was surprised when I did not.

The reason was Richard Feynman himself. He was on the Rogers Commission, and the one who had dowsed the famous “O”-ring in ice water and found it had, in fact, frozen in the figuration he had placed it at the panel meeting with TV-cameras rolling. His wife thanked me profusely for my balanced insight and we three became fast friends. (They even bought me a split of champagne that afternoon!)

Afterwards, Dr Feynman did this interview on the reasons “why” it occurred. It is below, titled “From Earth To Moon To Reality for NASA…”

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