Communication Failures Contributing to the Challenger
Accident: An Example for Technical Communicators
Abstract-Examination of the public documents available on the
Challenger explosion shows that a history of miscommunication contributed to the
accident. This miscommunication was caused by several factors, including managers and
engineers interpreting data from different perspectives and the difficulty of believing and
then sending had news, especially to superiors or outsiders. An understanding of the
dynamics at work in the Challenger case can help engineers and engineering managers
elsewhere reduce miscommunication in their own companies.
the most important of which seem to be ( I ) managers and engineers viewing the same
facts from different perspectives, and (2) the general difficulty of either sending or receiving bad
news, particularly when it must be passed to superiors or outsiders.
Communication about the solid rocket booster joint that failed was made more difficult
because it was bad news. Research has repeatedly shown that bad news is often not passed
upward in organizations. Moreover, even when bad news is sent, people are less li