152 Engineering Ethics: An Industrial Perspective
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Schwartz, J., After 2 years on ground, shuttle is set to fly in July. NY Times, A10, July 1, 2005.
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION
1. Of the eight ethical dilemmas presented in Chapter 1, which were present
in the events leading to the Columbia explosion and its aftermath?
2. The basic shuttle system design is more than 30 years old. During its last
flight, the majority of the Columbia orbiter instrumentation was 22 years
old. It had been in service twice as long as its specified service life, with
many sensors already failing. Of the 181 sensors in the Columbia’s wings,
55 had already failed or were producing questionable readings before
the final launch (NASA, 2003). Even if the flight had been successful,
should the Columbia have continued to be in service?
3. Because the space shuttle program has been NASA’s single most expen-
sive activity for the past 30 years, it has been hardest hit by the NASA
budget constraints of the last decade. In 1993, NASA received $4 billion; in
2002, NASA received $3.3 billion.This budget reduction had an even more
severe effect on the space shuttle program because of the high priority
after 1993 to complete the costly international space station. In 1993 the
total space shuttle program workforce consisted of 30,391 workers; in 2002
the total space shuttle program workforce consisted of 17,462 workers
(NASA, 2003). Have these budget and worker cuts affected safety?
If so, how?
4. After the Challenger explosion, the space shuttles stopped launching
commercial satellites and the Department of Defense began to launch
all future military payloads on expendable launch vehicles (NASA,
2003). Conduct a cost-benefit analysis regarding whether the space
shuttles should continue to fly.
5. What types of organizational changes are needed to change the seeming
NASA overemphasis of schedule over safety?
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