Science and Engineering Ethics

, Volume 8, Issue 1, pp 59–81

Representation and misrepresentation: Tufte and the Morton Thiokol engineers on the Challenger


DOI: 10.1007/s11948-002-0033-2

Cite this article as:
Robison, W. SCI ENG ETHICS (2002) 8: 59. doi:10.1007/s11948-002-0033-2


This paper examines the role of the Morton Thiokol engineers in the decisions surrounding the launch of the Challenger, particularly with reference to an analysis of this event by Edward Tufte. The engineers at Morton Thiokol recommended against the launch of Challenger because the projected launch temperature between 26°F to 29°F was far outside their field database of successful launches. The engineers had asked for, but not received, data necessary to determine the cause of massive blow-by on the launch the previous January, and they had informed their managers and NASA that continuing flights could be catastrophic if the cause of the problems with the launches was not discovered. The authors conclude that the engineers thus did what they were ethically as well as professionally obligated to do.


ChallengerMorton ThiokolNASAexperimental dataexperiential datafield databaseblow-byerosionO-ring temperatureambient air temperatureburden of proofEdward Tuftemoral responsibility

Copyright information

© Opragen Publications 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Rochester Institute of TechnologyCollege of Liberal ArtsRochesterUSA