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Bob Ebeling Dies: Engineer Foresaw Challenger Disaster

Image: Bob Ebeling Dies: Engineer Foresaw Challenger Disaster

The Space Shuttle Challenger a few seconds after exploding. (REUTERS/NASA/Handout)

By    |   Wednesday, 23 Mar 2016 10:44 AM

Bob Ebeling, the NASA contractor who foresaw the Challenger shuttle disaster in 1986, died Monday in Brigham City, Utah at 89, his family confirmed, according to the Washington Post.

Ebeling, a former rocket engineer for NASA contractor Morton Thiokol, and four other engineers tried to convince the space agency to not launch the shuttle on Jan. 28, 1986, expressing concerns about the performance of the rubber O-rings on the shuttle's booster rockets in cold temperatures, said the Post.

Ebeling went as far as to detail the problems with the O-rings before the failed flight in a memo, but NASA still moved forward with the launch, watching it explode 73 seconds after takeoff, according to the Post and National Public Radio.

The failed flight killed all on board, including high school teacher Christa McAuliffe, who was making a historic voyage as the first American civilian in space, noted Biography.com.

"That was one of the mistakes God made," Ebeling told NPR last month on the explosion's 30th anniversary. "He shouldn't have picked me for that job. But next time I talk to him, I'm gonna ask him, 'Why me? You picked a loser.'"

After the NPR interview, many around the country rallied to Ebeling's defense, saying that he was one sounding the alarm and should not have carried the guilt over the years, stated the radio network.

"Your efforts show that your care for people comes first for you," Jim Sides, an engineer from Jacksonville, North Carolina, said in a letter to Ebeling, according to NPR. "… You … and your colleagues did all that you could do. God didn't pick a loser. He picked Bob Ebeling."

A passionate conservationist, Ebeling was awarded the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Award from President George H.W. Bush in 1989, noted the Salt Lake Tribune. He was also named the National Wildlife Refuge System Volunteer of the Year for 2012 for his hours of volunteer work.

"I'm still in love with the birds," Ebeling said in 2013, according to the Tribune. "I love the independence of birds. They do what they want when they want. I have a great pride in talking to youngsters about birds. I tell them 'You can't go wrong with the birds. Look how far I got with them.'"

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Bob Ebeling, the NASA contractor who foresaw the Challenger shuttle disaster in 1986, died Monday in Brigham City, Utah at 89, his family confirmed, according to the Washington Post.
bob ebeling, dies, engineer, challenger
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2016-44-23
Wednesday, 23 Mar 2016 10:44 AM
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