Challenger Disaster Linked to Asbestos Ban

C H Diaz


While most all American’s know the cause of the Challenger disaster was caused by some kind of O-ring failure, very little attention was given to why the O-rings failed. American’s were told the space shuttle Challenger disaster in 1986 was the result of super-heated gases blowing past the O-rings igniting the huge fuel tanks. But why did that happen?

The beginning of that answer goes back to 1977 when the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) banned paints and putties sold to the general public that contained asbestos.

The ban came as a result of the typical media hype that governs most decisions made today about all the things in life that are going to cause cancer and kill us. A more accurate description would be the hysteria caused by the new political science adopted by the government, the media, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and most politicians using crisis management to forward a larger more socialistic government.

As a result of the banning, the Fuller O’Brien Company, manufacturers of a putty used to seal the O-rings on the Challenger and the Titan 34D rockets, decided to remove all products containing asbestos from their product line. When asked why the products were removed, Tim Kelly, Vice President for Fuller O’Brien said,”

We didn’t want any lawsuits.” When Fuller O’Brien stopped manufacturing the asbestos putty they did stockpile enough to last for a few years but eventually the last was used.

In his book Prescription for Disaster, Joseph Trento wrote,

“NASA had used an off-the-shelf putty manufactured by the Fuller O’Brien Company of San Francisco to help seal the field joints of SRB’s (Solid Rocket Fuel Boosters) through the first 10 missions…” “The Fuller-O’Brien Company, fearful of legal action because of the asbestos ban, stopped manufacturing the asbestos based putty. NASA began buying different putty from a New Jersey Based company. The SRB experts at Marshall noted the new putty did not seem to seal the joints as well as the old putty, but they continued to use it anyway.”

In fact, after the asbestos putty was replaced there was more than one failure. In a Monthly Report, dated July 1, 1985, Lawrence Mulloy, the solid fuel rocket division head wrote,

“The first 12 flights had four occurrences of primary O-ring erosion…”

During tests at Morton Thiokol engineer Roger Boisjoly wrote in a memo to R.K. Lud, VP of Engineering dated July 1, 1985 six months before the Challenger disaster:

“This letter is written to ensure that management is fully aware of the seriousness of the current O-ring problem from an engineering standpoint.”

“…This position is now drastically changed as a result of the SRM nozzle joint erosion which eroded a secondary O-ring with the primary never sealing. If the same scenario should occur in a field joint [one used in flight]…the results would be a catastrophe of the highest order-loss of human life.”

In a memo by Senator Steve Symms to NASA he refers to an internal NASA memo written in February of 1984 it stated,

“Specifically, concern is raised about the type 2 Randolph zinc chromate (ZCT) putty’s sensitivity to humidity and temperature”

Another memo dated July 17 1985, written by Irving Davis, a NASA solid rocket fuel engineer stated, “The primary suspect as for the cause for the erosion on the primary O-Ring seals is the putty used…It is important to note that after the tenth STS-10 [the tenth shuttle launch], the manufacturers of the putty went out of business and a new putty manufacturer was contracted. The new putty is believed to be more susceptible to environmental effects such as moisture which makes the putty more tacky.”

“Thiokol is seriously considering the deletion of the putty…since they believe the putty is the prime cause of the erosion.”

Memos seemed to be all over the place as another internal memo dated July 23 1985 by a NASA budget analyst, he stated,

“Engineers have not yet determined the cause of the problem. Candidates include the use of a new type of putty (the putty formerly used was removed from the market by NASA because it contained asbestos.”

Then in August 1985 a Titan missile explodes on launch that has the same O-rings with the same putty replacement. There were also similar conditions at launch time. Again in April of 1986 yet another Titan missile explodes on launch with the same O-rings and replacement putty.

After the disaster, it became so apparent the replacement putty was the problem, that in a memo dated June 25 1986, from Sen. Symms to the NASA administrator, he remarked,

 “With so much evidence incriminating this putty…the need for chemical analysis should have been immediately obvious.”

Adding to the overwhelming opinion blaming the change in putty Dr. Malcolm Ross of the U.S. Geological Survey stated,

“There is no doubt in my mind that the Challenger disaster was caused by EPA’s asbestos paranoia.”

Finally an independent panel appointed by the National Research Council to recommend a new design for the O-ring problem recommended the replacement of the zinc chromate seal with two asbestos silicate seals. In an article published in CHEMTECH (November 1989) they stated,

 “slow dynamic response (resiliency)…of the O-ring seals at low temperature”

was responsible for the crash.

The members the panel were Jack L Blumenthal, Chief Engineer TRW; Robert C. Anderson, Minuteman Program TRW; and H. Guyford Stever, Panel Chairman, former president Carnegie-Mellon University



It would seem the final nail has been driven into the EPA’s coffin that hopefully it will be buried in someday. The ironic part of this debacle is that according to Dr. Ross,

“All the substitutes for asbestos are, in fact carcinogenic…” “Ceramic fibers, rock wool, fiberglass, all have been found carcinogenic in laboratory animals.”

The EPA has adopted a program, in the name of saving lives, to ban anything and everything that could possibly be a carcinogen. In the mean time they have also changed the definition of cancer causing so they can include more chemicals and substances. They will go to no expense to save a life, as much as $3.5 billion to save 1 life in a million.

At the same time they ban substances like DDT that have helped humans and the ban is currently blamed for killing an estimated 2 to 8 million humans per year as a result of malaria. The upcoming ban on CFC’s will cause an estimated 20 to 40 million human deaths per year.

Excessive environmental regulations are not only killing people in the third world countries, here at home jobs are being lost and Americans are footing the bill.

California has the highest unemployment in the nation and if you listen to the national media it’s all because of defense cuts. An estimated 227,000 jobs have been lost in Southern California due to EXCESSIVE environmental regulation.

What did defense cuts have to do with 15 furniture manufacturers closing down in California and moving out of state?

What do defense cuts have to do with the sportswear manufacturer who moved out of state when the Air Quality Board told him he had to install an air evacuation system at an estimated cost of over $1 million because they found a can (YES A CAN, A SMALL CAN!), of glue on his assembly line? The glue was used to tack his logo on the sportswear prior to being sewn on.

What do defense cuts have to do with McDonald Douglas negotiating to move their Long Beach plant to Kansas City or St Louis? Douglas has to fly their new planes to Arizona to be painted because of EXCESSIVE paint fume regulations.

Excessive environmental regulations killed seven brave American astronauts. §


Based on The Asbestos Racket by Michael J. Bennett


Copyright © 2003 SUANews
All Rights Reserved