Washington — The Presidential Commission on the Space Shuttle Challenger Accident formally presented its final report to President Reagan Monday. Here are highlights of the 256-page report:
The Challenger was destroyed and its seven-member crew killed because of the erosion of a booster-joint seal. This seal is intended to prevent hot gases from leaking through a booster joint while the propellant burns.
The failure was due to a faulty design.
The decision to launch was flawed. Those who made it were unaware of advice not to go ahead because the weather was unusually cold and there was ice on the launch pad.
The launch might not have taken place if the doubts of engineers at rocket manufacturer Morton Thiokol Inc. and others had been clearly stated to officials of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).
NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center at Huntsville, Ala., was blamed for not passing along key information.
Marshall was responsible for overseeing the design and operation of shuttle engines.
Unrelenting launch pressures weakened NASA's once-exacting procedures.
Neither ground controllers nor crew had any warning of impending disaster. Even if they had, there was nothing they could have done to avert it between ignition of the solid-rocket boosters and booster separation from the shuttle about 2 minutes later. Key recommendations:
1. The faulty rocket-engine joint should be redesigned under an independent oversight committee.
2. All components critical to shuttle flights should be reviewed and if necessary improved.
3. NASA should establish an independent Office of Safety, Reliability, and Quality Assurance.
4. NASA should improve its internal communications so that all information on flight safety reaches the top.
5. NASA should improve landing safety of tires, brakes, and nose-wheel steering systems.
6. NASA should consider a crew escape system and increased emergency-landing capabilities.
7. Reliance on the shuttle as the principal US space launch vehicle created relentless pressure on NASA. This should be avoided in the future.
8. NASA should adopt better maintenance, testing, and installation procedures.