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Roger Boisjoly
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Scientist
    (April 25, 1938-January 6, 2012)
    Born in Lowell, Massachusetts
    Mechanical engineer
    Worked for Morton Thiokol, manufacturer of solid rocket boosters (SRBs) for the Space Shuttle
    Found that o-rings used in the SRBs could fail at low temperatures, which could cause loss of the Shuttle and crew
    Wrote a memo to company superiors about the design flaw (July, 1985)
    Raised the issue again the day before the Challenger Disaster
    Testified before the Rogers Commission investigating the disaster
    Became a speaker on workplace ethics
    He had predicted that if o-ring failure occurred, it would happen during initial take off, so he was relieved when Challenger lifted off.
    A colleague whispered, 'We just dodged a bullet'; seconds later, one of the solid rocket boosters exploded.
    He suffered depression, headaches and double vision after the disaster.
    He yelled at his dog and his daughters and skipped church to avoid people.
    He was shunned by many Morton Thiokol employees for publicizing the disputes within the company.
    He filed two unsuccessful lawsuits against Morton Thiokol.
    He and other engineers initially convinced Morton Thiokol management to recommend that the Challenger launch be delayed until temperatures reached at least 53 F.
    NASA responded by pressuring company management, with one Project Director at the Marshall Space Center complaining, 'My God, Thiokol, when do you want me to launch, next April?'
    In response, Morton Thiokol's managers reversed themselves and advised NASA that the data about the o-rings was 'inconclusive.'
    He said that when he was shunned by his colleagues, he was sustained by a single gesture of support: astronaut Sally Ride hugging him after his appearance in front of the Rogers Commission.
    For his whistleblowing efforts after the disaster, he received the Award for Scientific Freedom and Responsibility from the American Association for the Advancement of Science (1988).
    After the loss of the Space Shuttle Columbia (2003), he urged that the NASA officials responsible be indicted for manslaughter, commenting 'They have destroyed $5 billion worth of hardware and 14 lives because of their nonsense.'

Credit: C. Fishel


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