Lowell-born Roger Boisjoly Warned of Shuttle Challenger Danger

In yesterday’s New York Times Douglas Martin wrote of Lowell-born Roger Boisjoly who died a few weeks ago just before the anniversary of the 1986 Challenger Space Shuttle disaster. Why link these two events? Remember the O-ring question? An O-ring seal in Challenger’s right solid rocket booster failed at liftoff – a situation that Morton Thiokol, the company that made the boosters, was warned about by one of it’s own engineers – Roger Boisjoly. In a memo to the company, Boisjoly warned that if  the weather was too cold, seals connecting sections of the shuttle’s huge rocket boosters could fail. He wrote: “The result could be a catastrophe of the highest order, loss of human life.”

After the Challenger disaster – Roger Boisjoly gave a presidential commission investigating the disaster internal Morton Thiokol corporate documents – the memo he had written six months before – it was a bombshell. He became a whistle-blower both praised and reviled. He  became sought after as an expert in forensic engineering but his health suffered and suits against his former company were dismissed. Of his former space-project colleagues he remembered that only Sally Ride – the first woman in space – made any positive gesture to him.

Exerpts from his obituary:

NEPHI, UTAH — Our beloved Roger Mark Boisjoly’s time on earth has ended. He passed away January 6, 2012, in Nephi, Utah, after a courageous battle with cancer. He was born April 25, 1938 in Lowell, MA to Joseph Antonio Boisjoly and Isabell St. Cyr.

He was raised and educated in Lowell, MA and graduated  from the University of Lowell with a degree in mechanical engineering. He married Roberta Malcolm on April 21, 1962…  In his college years Roger enjoyed hockey and tennis. Roger worked in the aerospace industry for 27 years. Later he started his own business in forensic engineering and enjoyed speaking to universities on ethics…He will be missed

My note: Besides his wife, the former Roberta Malcolm, he is survived by his daughters Norma Patterson and Darlene Richens; his brothers Ronald (retired Lowell High School teacher), Russell and Richard; and eight grandchildren.

Read the NYTimes article here:    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/04/us/roger-boisjoly-73-dies-warned-of-shuttle-danger.html?_r=1&src=twrhp

Read more about Roger Boisjoly here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roger_Boisjoly



4 Responses to Lowell-born Roger Boisjoly Warned of Shuttle Challenger Danger

  1. Bob Forrant says:

    Great post. Just read the obit and then here is your story and link! One more example of when workers down the chain of command no far more than their bosses and are shut out of the conversation. What a tragedy, that was so obviously preventable. Similar things have come out post 9/11 as evidence mounts that individuals within the national security apparatus were putting together all of the warning signs for what was to come, but were not listened to or dismissed as cranks by their higher ups.

  2. Nancy P says:

    I had no idea. Thanks Marie. Last year in April, I met a niece of Ron Boisjoly, at the Constitution Museum in Hunstville Alabama and when I came back from visiting there, I went to visit Mr. Boisjoly and his wife. He was thrilled to hear about his relative – he had actually gone to her wedding in the early ’70’s. What a small world.

  3. Ernest Salomon says:

    There are few great men in the world. Roger Boisjoly was one of the few. He put his entire career on the line in order to save llives and was ignored and vilified. He was right and NASA is still wrong!