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Wasn’t Told of Seal Leak: Ex-Astronaut

Associated Press

Adm. Richard Truly, a former astronaut who directs the space shuttle program, said today that the Challenger explosion would not have happened if he and others had been told about erosion of booster rocket seals on the second shuttle flight, which he piloted in 1981.

“The failure to communicate this erosion problem or to consider its severity was one of the causes of the accident,” Truly told the House Committee on Science and Technology.

He said he learned only after the Jan. 28 Challenger disaster that on the second flight there had been erosion of one of the rubber-like O-rings in a joint on one of Columbia’s solid fuel booster rockets.

Investigation also disclosed there had been O-ring erosion on four subsequent flights.

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The Rogers Commission report Monday said the Challenger accident, which killed seven astronauts, was caused by a faulty joint on the right booster rocket and cited flaws in NASA management and safety that prevented information about the problem from reaching the astronauts and upper-level management.

Asked whether the astronaut corps would have permitted flights to continue if it had known of the joint and O-ring problems, Truly replied: “We should have known. It should have been worked as a major technical problem on the top of the table. If we had known about it, we would have stopped all flights after the second mission, and we would have fixed this.”

Truly, who took over the reins of the shuttle program after the Challenger accident, told the committee that he embraced the Rogers Commission report and would use it as a road map to return the shuttle to safe and effective flight.

He said many of the recommendations made by the commission Monday already are in the works.

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Congress starts own shuttle probe. Page 8.


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