Roger Boisjoly's Death Goes Unnoticed, Predicted 1986 NASA Rocket Explosion

Roger Boisjoly, an aerodynamicist who became known as the "whistle blower" in NASA's 1986 rocket launch, has passed away at the age of 73.

Boisjoly worked for Morton Thiokol, the manufacturer of the solid rocket boosters for NASA's Space Shuttle program. Prior to the launch of the space shuttle Challenger, Boisjoly sent a memo cautioning about the effects of cold weather on the rocket boosters.

The night before the rocket was launched, Boisjoly and four other scientists argued that the launch should be postponed. However senior managers within the company and NASA itself decided that the claims were not legitimate.

As a result, the rocket was launched Jan. 29 in Florida, under weather conditions that were below freezing. Only a minute after the launch, the rocket caught flame eventually igniting an explosion that took the lives of seven astronauts.

Following the incident, a large debate began concerning ethics and the relationship between personal and organizational responsibility.

Mr. Boisjoly was awarded the Prize for Scientific Freedom and Responsibility by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and became sought after as an expert in forensic engineering. However, that did not occur before Boisjoly was ostracized by co-workers and managers who feared that Boisjoly had destroyed the company. Boisjoly worked in the aerospace industry for 27 years.

According to the L.A. Times, "Boisjoly, 73, died of cancer Jan. 6 in Nephi, Utah, though news of his passing was known only in the southwest Utah community where he retired."