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:
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”.