Appeals Court Voids Order to Release Challenger Tapes
NASA won another chance Friday to show why it should not be forced to release the taped conversations of astronauts aboard the space shuttle Challenger moments before it exploded in 1986.
A federal appeals court held on a 6-5 vote that a lower court had erred in ordering the release of the tape without balancing the public interest against the harm of invading the privacy of the seven crew members who were killed and their survivors.
The decision by the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia sends the case back to U.S. District Judge Norma Holloway Johnson, who had ordered NASA in 1987 to release the tapes to the New York Times.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration “is entitled to an opportunity to prove its claim that release of the tape would invade the privacy of the deceased astronauts, of their families,” the appeals court majority said.
The ruling reversed both the original district court opinion and a 1988 holding by a split three-judge panel of the appeals court that had upheld the release of the tapes.