Challenger refers to a space shuttle that was owned by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). The Challenger was scheduled to launch on 28th January 1986. On the scheduled day, the challenger lit off but it disintegrated immediately after liftoff (Chow). It is estimated that it was just about 73 seconds after liftoff. All the seven astronauts on board perished. A board that investigated the accident was to blame it on extremely cold weather, which hindered the fine operation of the O-ring seal. Consequently, NASA concluded that it was not safe at all to fly in such cold weather (Chow).
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The Challenger disaster was a result of failure on the side of the management of NASA. The commission formed at the direction of United States President, Ronald Reagan, concluded that the organizational culture and the process of making the decision was the chief factor that leads to the accident (Staff). It was due to the fact managers at NASA had prior knowledge the contractor of the space shuttle had developed it with potentially dangerous flaws in what is known as the O-rings long before the fateful day (Staff).
Besides, the managers had ignored warnings by engineers that it was dangerous to launch the Challenger on such a cold period (Staff). The same managers had also failed to inform their seniors on the technical inherent flaws as advised by the engineers (Staff). Worse still, the decision-makers were also not informed of the history of the potential dangers concerning the O-rings or of the risk of launching in extremely cold weather. It is believed that if the decision-makers had known, they would have canceled the launch (Staff).
Roger Boisjoly’s presentations at the presidential commission on the Challenger did not amount to whistleblowing. Hard as it is to define, whistleblowing due to the fact difficulty and morality of the action. It is usually regarded as a heroic action that is usually done out of normal bounds (Weil). It should be noted that Roger gave his side of the history regarding the O-rings and the decision to launch after the tragedy had happened. Usually, whistleblowers act as a tragedy, scandal, or a mishap happens (Weil).
Other than whistleblowing being forward-looking, it is usually done outside the institution, in which the scandal, tragedy will originate. Some whistleblowers have been known to leave their countries to go and do it outside the country. The warnings he had given before the accident were done through the right channels, and that is why Roger remained an employee at NASA (Weil). When the decision-makers scheduled the launch, Roger obeyed. A whistleblower would not have obeyed. Even after the tragedy, he did present to a legally constituted commission (Weil).
What if legal and standards for environmental contamination are inadequate, as indeed they sometimes are?
An engineer should push the firm to comply with adequate environmental standards. Most living things at the lowest stage of the ecosystem depend on nitrogen and phosphorous for their survival. Fish are known to play a very crucial role in the recycling of nutrients (European Commission). It, in turn, keeps the food chains intact around aquatic ecosystems. Fish do this by storing a big proportion of ecosystem nutrients in their body tissues, participate in transportation nutrients and dispose of nutrients in dissolved form, which in turn are taken up by primary producers (European Commission).
Overall, due to the complexity of the legislation involved in trying to attain adequate environmental standards, the engineer in question should continue working in the current situation but continue pushing for the entrenchment of such standards. It is commonplace for law and ethics to conflict. What is lawful must not necessarily be ethical. For instance, in this case, the release of effluent is well guided by the law, but the issue of fish dying due to such effluent is not ethical.
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The engineer cannot afford to carry on with the work given to him because ignoring environmental issues depicts a misconception that human beings regard themselves as being not part of the environment. It is a misinformed position because human beings are part of the natural environment,t and everything that happens in the environment affects them directly or indirectly.
Do we have an obligation to take account of our environmental impacts on nonhuman living things?
Human beings must take account of their environmental impacts on non-human living things. We need not destroy or misuse non-human living things because by doing, so we might affect those resources that may afford us important benefits to generations to come. It is also believed that cruelty to non-human living things, in turn, becomes cruelty to human beings. The point here is that non-human living things should not be destroyed for the sake of destroying. However, they count “only to the extent that the welfare of human beings is affected” (Andre and Velasquez).
To some extent, the non-human living things have moral standing. In other words, it makes a significant difference as far as morality is concerned with how living things are treated. There is a general feeling that we should take into account the welfare of that living thing (Andre and Velasquez). It is a moral obligation to human beings.
A morally considered case for fish and plants can be made. We must take into consideration that fish and plants, other than being objects for our satisfaction, welfare is paramount too. They play great roles in any ecological setting and as such, any intended destruction of the two types of living things must take into consideration that needless destruction will consequently affect the ecology (Andre and Velasquez).
As such, the engineers cannot dismiss them as unimportant because for ecology to function well, all constituents must be taken care of. Animals have inherent value in themselves beyond their instrumental value. Some animals are very useful regarding the cycling of nutrients in the ecosystem (Andre and Velasquez). Other animals are important from the fact of increasing the rate of decomposition while others afford conditions that assist other species to live and increase both in numbers and in stature (Andre and Velasquez). It is also common knowledge that various animals aid in pollination in their ways. Pollination is such a significant process that would mean a lack of generation if it were destroyed.
Recent court rulings have effectively modified the common doctrine, which used to moderate staff rights, which gave employers the discretion to fire employees as long as a contract did not exist. As of now, appeal to public policy protects employees from punishment due to some actions. Several statutory laws also grant employees various rights against their employers.
Conflicts are bound to arise between employees of different cadres. No cadre is bad or good collectively. Individual employees can preserve their careers by remaining morally responsible. Common sense should be used to minimize possible threats to careers.
Various decisions have to be made every other time. In this case, engineers should handle technical decisions. Managers should concern themselves with decisions that touch on the wellness of the company without compromising any ethical standards touching on the engineers.
At times, organizational disobedience is inevitable. It can take the form of acting contrary to the expectations of the organization, refusing to participate in various tasks, or through the commonly known whistleblowing. However, in whistleblowing, there must be a balance between potential good and harm.
Concerning the Challenger, the decision to launch or not should have been made by the engineers and not the managers since it touched on technical aspects of the Challenger.
According to engineering codes, the health and welfare in particular of the public and the environment, in general, must be taken care of. The environment must be kept clean through the criteria proposed in this book, that of degree-of-harm. Respect for nature should not be for its own sake it ought to be balanced with the well-being of human beings.
There are three attitudes towards the environment: sub minimal, minimalist, and progressive. Progressive is more popular with companies and goes beyond the known sustainability concept. Engineers, other than protecting the environment, should be left free to air their views in all projects related to the environment and especially if the projects raise more questions than answers. They should also be allowed to sponsor their causes beyond the workstations.