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Ethical case study( The loss of the Shuttle Columbia) - Essay Example

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Name Professor Module Date Abstract The loss of the Shuttle Columbia and its crew members is one of the highlights and turning points of the history of NASA. Important mechanical, leadership and ethical issues can be observed in the loss of the Shuttle Columbia…
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Ethical case study( The loss of the Shuttle Columbia)
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Download file to see previous pages The recommendations balance deontological and utilitarian ethics; thus, NASA would achieve better outcomes in terms of research and space exploration. The Loss of the Shuttle Columbia: An Ethical Case Study The 28th flight of the Columbia forming the 113th mission of the Space Shuttle Program ended in loss of the mission and a tragic loss of the crew. The mechanical cause of the loss of the Shuttle Columbia and the seven crew members on board has been reported to be a breach in the spaceship’s Thermal Protection System on the left side-wing resulting from a piece of insulating foam (Niewoehner, Steidle, and Johnson 11). However, the loss of the Shuttle Columbia has attracted different perspectives of analysis, besides the mechanical viewpoint, as to other determinants of the outcomes. Studies into the loss of the Shuttle Columbia are important since a number of lessons can be discerned from the mechanical, leadership and ethical view points. Besides, it helps to generate recommendations for action that would guide space missions and the wider engineering field to avert similar occurrences. This study provides a background on the engineering/technical failure that resulted in the loss of the Shuttle Columbia as reported. An in-depth evaluation of the engineering, management, regulatory and socio-technical issues surrounding the unfortunate incident is undertaken. This is then followed by an analysis of the ethical lapses that contributed to the loss of the Shuttle Columbia, before the generation of recommendations based on an ethical framework. BACKGROUND Engineering Failures: As a prelude, the Space Shuttle Program launched the Columbia in January 28, 1986; a launch had never been undertaken at such cold temperatures. The shuttle exploded after only 7 seconds of launching (Baura 148). Lessons had not been learned when similar oversights occurred seventeen years later with the loss of the Shuttle Columbia on February 1, 2003. Shuttle Columbia was launched on January 16, 2003 for a 16 day mission to orbit the earth and promote science research. The first evidence of engineering failure appeared 81.7 seconds after the launch when Columbia was approximately 65,820 feet above the ground. With the shuttle traveling at about 1650 mph, a large piece of insulating form that was hand-crafted came off the Orbiter-external tank attachment area. The fall-out piece then struck the leading edge of the shuttle’s left wing at 81.9 seconds after the launch. These incidents were not detected immediately either by the on-board crew or by the ground team; rather, they were observed the next day by the ground support team upon detailed analysis of the launch’s videos and pictures. The damage on the lead left wing appeared to have not had any effects on the 16 day space operations of the shuttle as the mission met its space objectives. Reports provide details that the Columbia Shuttle re-entered the earth’s atmosphere with an existing breach to its leading edge of the left wing. The exact position of the breach is reported as proximal to the panel 8 of the RCC (Reinforced Carbon-Carbon). The breach is deemed sufficiently big enough to allow for the penetration of super-heated air – above 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit – into the space behind the RCC panel. The super-heated air was then able to penetrate the left wing and destroy its structural parts such as the insulation and the aluminum wing spur. Detailed analysis o ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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