The Unfinished Trip
Then & Now
Echos Through Time
Facts and Fictions
In Memoriam: RMS Titanic
Challenger: A Modern Day Titanic
There is a cycle of events that occurs in the life of every great tragedy.
The sinking of the Titanic and the destruction of the Shuttle Challenger
during Mission 51-L in January, 1986 were just two of many incidents where man
took too much for granted.
Everyone knows what caused the sinking of the Titanic: she struck an
iceberg. Everyone knows what caused the Challenger to explode: An O-ring
in a solid rocket booster froze. These are the immediate causes, however. The
root causes, the real reasons behind the loss of these two fine ships go much
||R.M.S. Titanic was the largest, most complex ship afloat.
||Challenger was the largest, most complex spaceship ever launched.|
||Titanic was trying to reach New York by Tuesday night
||Challenger needed to be in orbit so Christa McAuliffe could
participate in the State of the Union speech|
||Technology had rendered ships larger, faster, more luxurious, and safer. "I
cannot imagine any condition which would cause a ship to founder. I cannot
concieve of any vital disaster happening to this vessel. Modern shipbuilding
has gone beyond that.": Captain Edward J. Smith
||After 24 successful launches, this risky operation projected the same sense
of normalcy a commuter train does.|
||Multiple ice warnings were ignored or misunderstood
||Ice had formed over the entire launch complex. Warnings about the
possible effect of the cold were ignored|
||In the 1898, novel, "Futility", Morgan Robertson told of the
loss of a ship named the Titan. The Titan had identical
specifcations as the Titanic, down to the fact there were inadequate
lifeboats. Like the Titanic, she sailed on her maiden voyage in April,
struck an iceberg, and sank with a large loss of life.
||In December, 1985, one month prior to the Challenger disaster, Dr.
Robert Ballard said, "I think there is a parallel with NASA and the people
who built the Titanic. ... When we conquer a new field of technology, we
become overconfident." |
|Impact on Society
||The loss of the Titanic was felt at all levels of society. So
great was the impact that some historians link the loss of this ship to Great
Britain's indecisiveness at the outset of World War I. Addtionally, more
stringent regulations governing safety of life at sea were adopted, with a
ripple effect felt all the way to today.
||The loss of the Challenger dealt NASA a blow that haunted the
agency for nearly three years. In that time, a string of launch failures, both
commercial and military, dogged all efforts to reestablish the manned space
program. As a result, there are more stringent restrictions on flight and cargo
and personnel that can be carried.|
||"Iceberg right ahead, sir!"
||"Obviously, a major malfunction. We have no downlink."|