I asked that question of the NASA administrator, James M Beggs and got the following response.

JRG: Jim a lot has been made of the fact that NASA management made poor decisions regarding the Challenger launch due to being under extreme pressure to meet a launch schedule. Did you feel pressure to launch?

JMB: Only mildly. No more than I felt with GD (General Dynamics). Every organization has a production goal they are working towards, that creates pressure to reach that goal. We could have flown 10 flights in 1986 and the President and Congress would not have objected.

JRG: What was your biggest concern regarding flights in 1986?

JMB: We were struggling to find enough payload to fill out the flights. Flight crews and Mission Specialists were easy, we had a long line of people wanting to go up. The problem was the shuttle was designed primarily as a payload vehicle not a passenger vehicle.
The Air Force had demanded we make 12 flights a year available to them and they only had enough cargo for 3 or 4 a year. Commercial payloads were a big focus, but took time to develop. Some flights at the end of 1985 flew with less than half of the payload they could have carried.

JRG: So the NASA you lead faced the same challenges as a private airline. Have enough available capacity to meet customer demand, but not schedule so many flights that you can’t effectively fill them.

JMB: Right, Pan Am was handling some of our manifesting, so that is pretty accurate.

Does anyone have documentation of NASA officials or the press speaking of pressure to launch, prior to the Rogers Commission creating that story?

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    $\begingroup$ Source of this quoted material? $\endgroup$ – Organic Marble Sep 27 '18 at 16:47
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    $\begingroup$ Transcript of phone call with James Beggs on 9/20/18 at 1:28PM $\endgroup$ – Challenger Truth Sep 27 '18 at 17:10
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    $\begingroup$ What is the "Challenger Truth"? If the system was under no pressure to launch, why did they do it? Wouldn't it be more effective to set up a website somewhere and explain your views, rather than going through this Socratic questioning process? $\endgroup$ – Organic Marble Sep 27 '18 at 17:54
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    $\begingroup$ The reason for asking this question is to try to uncover information that supports the "known" truth. I am unable to locate any and hope others can provide me with something I missed. $\endgroup$ – Challenger Truth Sep 27 '18 at 18:09
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    $\begingroup$ I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it does not appear to be a genuine question, but merely a soapbox for the author to present their personal opinions and theories. Stack Exchange is a Q&A site, not a blogging platform. $\endgroup$ – Ilmari Karonen Nov 6 '18 at 11:33

I had hoped that someone could provide a piece of evidence to support this claim. It appears that it is in fact a “myth” created by the Rogers commission. The first appearance I can find of the “Under Pressure” theory (although maybe Queen was referring to NASA in their song) is an article in the Washington Post on 2/9/86.

Why would the Commission create a theory that NASA (and MTI management) was under extreme pressure to launch when none of the Challenger decision makers felt that they were?

The cold O-ring explanation for the accident on its face assumes that everyone in the world knows that rubber responds slower to the cold temperatures, but not the decision makers. The cold O-ring theory assumes that the launch decision makers ignored the obvious “fact” of O-ring response and proceeded to launch in spite of “clear” warnings.

The problem with that explanation is that the NASA management team did not appear to be the “idiots who launch in the cold” that this story requires them to be. The theory works if you assert that the management team knew that the obvious cold O-ring risk was present, but they chose to take that risk due to an extreme pressure to launch. Larry Mulloy, George Hardy, Bob Lund and Joe Kilminister have all denied on the record that they felt a pressure to launch. And it appears that they were not under any pressure to launch.

Bob Lund, the key MTI decision maker, chose to ignore the assertions of Roger Boisjoly and Arnie Thompson that the cold temperature could lead to a joint failure because the data they presented proved the exact opposite. This “key” data was the resiliency tests done by Roger Boisjoly and Arnie Thompson in February, 1985.

The tests showed the following: O-ring resiliency chart

This data leads to the common sense conclusion that as the O-ring gets colder it takes significantly longer to seal. It was then assumed that this property had “some significance” in the accident.

This data provides a second more important conclusion for anyone with a basic understanding of SRB joint dynamics. A SRB joint must obtain a good seal in the first 400 milliseconds after ignition or it will suffer a catastrophic leak. This test data indicates that if the joint relied on O-ring resiliency as the method of sealing then every joint under 75F would fail to seal before 2400 milliseconds. Since 21 of the first 24 flights were under 75F and none of them failed, it is clear that some other method beside O-ring resiliency was the primary method of sealing the SRB joint.

Bob Lund and the other MTI managers knew this and rejected the cold O-ring theory, not because of pressure to launch, but because the data presented did not support a conclusion that a SRB leak would occur. The only reasonable conclusion you can draw from the data presented was the O-ring resiliency had nothing to do with SRB joint sealing below 75F.

The answer to this question is: NASA and the MTI managers were, as they stated, under no pressure to launch. They looked at the data presented which predicted a failure because of cold O-ring function and PROPERLY rejected it as a false conclusion

Unfortunately for them, others with much less understanding of SRB joint dynamics, picked up the same data and made this false conclusion an obvious “fact”.

  • $\begingroup$ This really doesn't answer the question. You asked about pressure / expectation on NASA management, and then wrote an answer which talks about the materials properties of O-rings. $\endgroup$ – djr Oct 7 '18 at 13:02
  • $\begingroup$ Please reread the first paragraph. No mention of pressure to launch has been located prior to Sunday 2/9/86. Despite offering a bounty and giving this diverse and intelligent community an opportunity to respond, no evidence has been found. That was the purpose of this question, to determine if I missed any evidence that might point to the Challenger launch decision makers being under excess pressure to launch. The balance of the answer is simply to explain why the myth was created ex post facto.. $\endgroup$ – Challenger Truth Oct 7 '18 at 14:56
  • $\begingroup$ You've still got 1 paragraph to say that you haven't found the thing you asked for, followed by 10 paragraphs of your speculations about why that might be the case. $\endgroup$ – djr Oct 7 '18 at 17:36
  • $\begingroup$ Not speculation. I have 13 hours of phone conversation and 132 emails between myself and Bob Lund. He and I discussed the details of his decision and the vicious attack he suffered as a result of making the right decision based upon the facts he was presented with. He was a good and decent man who doesn't deserve the label placed on him. Forgive me for wanting to defend him. $\endgroup$ – Challenger Truth Oct 7 '18 at 17:42

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