Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Email from Tompkins

So I emailed Phillip Tompkins - here is what I wrote:

Hi Dr. Tompkins.

I am a student at Northeastern University taking an advanced Organizational Communications class. We use your book, Apollo, Challenger, Columbia: The Decline of the Space Program” as a guide to studying organizational communications. I just had a small uestion regarding your book. Richard Cook, the whistle blower of NASA nvolved with the Challenger accident had a main argument that was not discussed in your book. He claimed that NASA was being pushed by the hite House to launch on time, regardless of safety issues. Because of his, concerns about the Orings were addressed but no action was taken y managers. Because this idea was so prevalent in Cook’s testimony, hy wasn’t it addressed in your book? Thank you for your time and consideration.

Gretchen Lovell

Here was his reply:
Hi Gretchen Lovell,

After the accident there were a lot of claims about the White House.
President Reagan was said to have a passage about the launch in a speech being prepared. The White House denied it meant to put pressure on them and so on. No individual had the time and resources to replicate the investigation of the Commission appointed to investigate the Challenger accident. I met Roger Boisjoly and asked him about it; he felt he was being forced to prove the shuttle would not launch successfully, for whatever reason, and so I decided to go with the conclusion reached by the Commission. I quote their conclusions about the illfated decision.

In addition, I quote CAIB in reviewing the original investigation. There is always pressure to keep to the schedule: Time is one of the three main topoi I discuss. Faster, Better, Cheaper is introduced by Administrator Goldin after the Challenger accident. And if you have read the rest of the book you know that schedule is emphasized in the Columbia case. But again, managers paid tool little attention to the concerns of engineers.

Thanks for the question and say hi to your professor and classmates for me.

Phil Tompkins

What do you think?