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Professional engineers

The modern day Engineer has the obligation to conduct their operations in an ethical manner. Several accidents result from negligence on the part of the Engineer or from not following the standards set out for conducting these activities. One such accident was the 1986 Space Shuttle Challenger disaster in which the vehicle burst into flames shortly after taking off killing all the crew. The president of the United States set up a commission to investigate the cause of the accident that found that the accident was as a result of the failure of the O-ring seals and that the seals had been cited as a potential hazard years before the accident. The commissions report to the president indicated that since managers and engineers had prior knowledge of the O-ring danger, lack of proper communication between management and the engineers and poor management practices were the principle causes of the disaster. This interpretation is however insufficient if the history of how NASA and contractor’s engineers had detected and dealt with the defects on the O-rings before the launch. According to Andrew Dunar and Stephen Waring in Power To Explore-History of Marshall Space Flight Center 1960-1990, ‘Allowing Marshall engineers and managers to offer their side of their story, based on documents before and after the accident testimony and interviews leads to a more realistic account of the events leading up to the accident than that found in the previous studies.’ It is therefore important that I highlight some of the ethical issues raised in order to understand the obligations of professional engineers as a way of preventing the occurrence of such disasters. While engineering ethics principles are easy to formulate, they are sometimes hard to apply and decisions made by professional engineers must be considered on the context of the technical details of the design. It should be seen that ethical principles are not violated to avoid the probability of accidents due to such considerations as of finance. The NASA space Shuttle Challenger burst into flames about 73 minutes after liftoff killing seven people on board. The crew team included: Francis R. Scobee as the commander, Michael John Smith ( who was the pilot), Ellison Onizuka ( the missions 1st Specialist ), Judith Resnik (Mission 2nd Specialist), Ronald McNair (Mission third Specialist ), Christa McAuliffe (Payload 1st Specialist ), and Gregory B. Jarvis (Payload 2 nd Specialist ). The commission realized that on the evening prior to the launch Morton Thiokol, the contractor supplying the seals had recommended during a teleconference that the launch be delayed due to concerns about the performance of the seals. This recommendation was however reversed during the teleconference leading to the disaster. In trying to understand, the probable causes of the accident during investigations care take care not to such as the myth of perfect engineering practice and that of retrospective fallacy. There is no such thing as perfect engineering practice and simply identifying what standard steps were not followed during the design is not enough in assigning the cause of accident. Moreover, looking back in retrospect at what important decisions should/could have been made is sometimes misleading, as investigators will always try to assign blame. In order to underst ...Show more


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Author : rchamplin
Professional engineers essay example
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