The Role of Information in the Challenger Disaster
The world was saddened by the Challenger disaster in 1986. Just 73 seconds into the flight the shuttle exploded, instantly killing the seven astronauts on board-including Christa McAulliffe, the first teacher to be launched into space. In the aftermath of the tragedy, much effort was expended in determining the specific causes and NASA sought to determine what could have prevented this catastrophe. Surprisingly, the process of communicating information was found to play a large role in the tragic events that day.
Review the information about this accident in the “Visual and Statistical Thinking: Displays of Evidence for Making Decisions” pamphlet listed in this week’s Resources.
Now answer the following:
- Review the “7 deadly sins” outlined in the Hammer (2007) article and the information about the shuttle disaster contained in “The Decision to Launch the Space Shuttle Challenger”, both in this week’s Resources.
- Analyze the events surrounding the Challenger launch through the lens of the “7 deadly sins.” Which of these “sins” do you see as contributing to the events surrounding the disaster? In what ways?
Few, S. (2005). Bad graphs: The stealth virus. DM Review, 15(1), 14–15.
Retrieved from the Computers & Applied Sciences Complete database.
Hammer, M., Haney, C. J., Wester, A., Ciccone, R., & Gaffney, P. (2007). The 7 deadly sins of performance measurement and how to avoid them. MIT Sloan Management Review (Cambridge), 48(3), 19–28.
Hillmer, S., & Kocabasoglu, C. (2008). Using qualitative data to learn about customer needs: Understanding employer desires when designing an MBA program. The Quality Management Journal, 15(2), 51–63.
Retrieved from the ProQuest Central database.
Tufte, E. R. (2008). Visual and statistical thinking: Displays of evidence for making decisions (4th Printing). Cheshire, CT: Graphics Press LLC.
“The Decision to Launch the Space Shuttle Challenger”, pp. 17–31
Few, S. (2006). Visual communication: Core design principles for displaying quantitative information. Cognos Innovative Center for Information Management. Retrieved from
Few, S. (2012). Show me the number: Designing tables and graphs to enlighten. Oakland, CA: Analytics Press.