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Truth, Lies, and O-Rings

Inside the Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster
Narrated by: Jonathan Yen
Length: 26 hrs and 32 mins
Categories: History, 20th Century
4.5 out of 5 stars (14 ratings)

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Summary

On a cold January morning in 1986, NASA launched the Space Shuttle Challenger, despite warnings against doing so by many individuals including Allan McDonald. The fiery destruction of Challenger on live television moments after launch remains an indelible image in the nation's collective memory.

In Truth, Lies, and O-Rings, McDonald, a skilled engineer and executive, relives the tragedy from where he stood at Launch Control Center. As he fought to draw attention to the real reasons behind the disaster, he was the only one targeted for retribution by both NASA and his employer, Morton Thiokol, Inc., makers of the shuttle's solid rocket boosters.

In this whistle-blowing yet rigorous and fair-minded book, McDonald, with the assistance of internationally distinguished aerospace historian James R. Hansen, addresses all of the factors that led to the accident, some of which were never included in NASA's Failure Team report submitted to the Presidential Commission.

Truth, Lies, and O-Rings is the first look at the Challenger tragedy and its aftermath from someone who was on the inside, recognized the potential disaster, and tried to prevent it. It also addresses the early warnings of very severe debris issues from the first two post-Challenger flights, which ultimately resulted in the loss of Columbia some 15 years later.

©2009 Allan J. McDonald (P)2018 Tantor

What members say

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Far too repetitive

Was disappointed with this. Far too long and self-justifying. The author obviously knows his stuff but equally obviously assumes his readers are stupid and keeps repeating himself. The biography at the end is indulgent. I would have preferred not to have wasted my time.

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Great insight into shocking cultural issues

As an engineer, this read provides a fascinating insight into the ethical, moral and cultural issues present at both NASA and Morton Thiokol leading up to the Challenger disaster. A must read for anybody involved in safety critical work.

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Engineering best practise guide

Engaging throughout a must for any engineer ... ever had your boss ask you to cut corners and you refused? If you ever need reassurance you did the right thing this is the book for you ... first class

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A dull, bitter man describes meetings

Couldn't finish it. The author comes across as bitter and instead of the drama and engineering details of the shuttle program we're treated to verbatim transcripts of meetings and the trivial doings of people of no importance within Thiakol. Very dull.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Daniel L Carmony
  • 16-08-18

A great look into what happened

If you are a NASA and space junkie this is a good book for you. There is a lot of detailed information on what went wrong and why. The author does repeat himself several times but I did not find it distracting but helped reiterate the information.
There is a lot of information on the SRBs but the author does a great job of keeping it so the average person can understand what he is talking about. The author explains in detail about the problems they were having with the rings before the Challenger exploded, the investigation of the accident, and then the rebuild process to get the Shuttle back in space.

I really enjoyed the book and found myself sitting in the car after arriving home from work so I could finish listening to the chapter. Five stars from me for both the author and the reader.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • T. F. W.
  • 18-01-19

Amazing book, terrible narrator

The book is incredible in it's detail and honesty. It's a fascinating look behind the scenes of a disaster so many of us remember. But the narrator is atrocious. It takes the first 5 chapters to just get past his obnoxious style of reading.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • J.Brock
  • 19-07-19

Couldn’t finish...

This is one book I really wanted to like. Unfortunately it’s one that translates to page better. It’s extremely technical. But worse, it’s exhaustingly repetitive. If it was half the length it would be tolerable. The cause of the Challenger disaster was discovered in the first chapter. But the accident itself is never the focus. It’s the author’s incessant need to reverberate that he was right for 26 hours that is the focus.

Unfortunately this book does nothing for the very good narrator Jonathan Yen, who is always strong and reliable. The writing makes him sound petulant and arrogant. But those are the author’s words. And his endless need to pat himself on the back just makes it worse.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Just a guy in AZ
  • 31-12-18

Excellent!! Lots of detail!!!

Excellent listen. Lots of information presented in a way that I believe most people would be able to follow. If you ever wanted to know the WHOLE story behind Challenger, this is it!!

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Alan Ebbinga
  • 29-01-19

Repetitive, perspective from one point of view

For some reason, it seems to start on chapter 20. I started the book and about 20 minutes into it I was so confused so I had to search through the chapters to try and figure out what order they're in, it's all jumbled up in the audio format.

The book itself is horribly repetitive. At times it seems like you are hearing the same thing over and over and over. Mr. MacDonald comes across as a whistle blower who was right and everyone else was wrong. He states (approximately 4000 times throughout the book) that HE told them not launch, but nobody listened. HE was the hero. HE tried to do the right thing.

Seemed to much like a blowhard for me toward the end. I would prefer an investigative report looking at this incident from the outside, this book is from ONE perspective of the ONLY guy who was right.... I just don't buy it. The way he throws everyone else under the bus kind of left a bad taste in my mouth.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • S. Wilson
  • 05-12-18

Great story

Im an aerospace engineer and was really impressed with the technical detail of this book. Its also a great story about how "go-fever" can often lead to critical oversights. Would recommend for anyone interested in either space or history.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Mr
  • 06-08-19

A very detailed account

Just be aware that it is like reading an engineers report because that’s what it is. It is not a fast paced recount of history. Written by an engineer so it is full of meticulous details, acronyms and lingo. If you don’t mind that it is interesting.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Devin Young
  • 29-05-19

Neat story about engineering and integrity.

Highly recommended for engineers. the acronym alphabet soup is a little tight to follow at first, but you'll get used to it. Alan McDonald had a very interesting story to tell.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • vakdevi
  • 03-07-19

Meh

Great account of the conflicts leading to the Challenger disaster and the following inquiries. Just way way too much self serving descriptions of how right McDonald was across numerous situations. Gets tedious.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 07-10-19

Warm up your rewind button

Extremely detailed look back at the Space Shuttle program from the inside. Many, many transcripts, memos and news articles are read verbatim, and many characters with job titles are introduced so be prepared to hit the “back” button if you want to follow the story. The author obviously had an axe (or two) to grind so the point of view was pretty self serving at times and should be read with a healthy dose of skepticism. The narration was pretty bad.