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Publisher's 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

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    3 out of 5 stars

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.

21 people found this helpful

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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.

7 people found this helpful

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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.

10 people found this helpful

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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!!

4 people found this helpful

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  • 08-06-19

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.

3 people found this helpful

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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.

3 people found this helpful

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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.

5 people found this helpful

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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 people found this helpful

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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 people found this helpful

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Men with this level of integrity are uncommon.

Do you remember all of the media hype about the President's State of the Union address including a live on-air hook-up with the first "teacher in space" during the address which was scheduled for that evening after the morning launch of the Challenger?

This is the narrative of the Morton Thiokol solid rocket booster engineer who put his career on the line in an effort to avoid the Challenger disaster - without the benefit of hindsight.

The launch proceeded over his many objections and the rest is history. What you will discover listening to this book is that he was punished and persecuted for the rest of his professional career by those who did not heed his warnings.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 10-19-19

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.

2 people found this helpful

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  • David B.
  • 02-20-19

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.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Alan Hough
  • 03-11-21

A blur of confusing anachronisms throughout!

Alan Hough
Really disappointing audio book unless you have a fantastic memory for the hundreds of anachronisms that are used. The author is obviously devastated by the accident and the adverse effects on his life are enormous,but he comes across as self serving white knight. Ie I know what happened, I tried to stop it, I’ve been gagged, woe is me. The author comes across as someone who, post accident wanted to be in the limelight and enjoyed the attention and became bitter when his role relating to the accident was diminished. What could have been a great book by a man who was right in the middle of the disaster ends up coming across as a therapy session for a disgruntled ex employee and that’s a shame. Maybe the audio book is not the correct format for this fact laden story and it would be easier to follow in hard back form.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 11-11-20

If you like detail, a very though and detailed account, thank you Allen.

This book is a though and detailed account of how the Space Shuttle Challenger accident happened. I remember arriving home from school to see it on the news. Now I know what lead up to the accident and how unsafe it really was with previous missions only being seconds away from disaster after reviewing the used SRB’s.
Allen J McDonald must have recounted in his head the events over and over again, meeting after meeting, the enquiry then deliberations to the point where it took over his life so he could eventually succeed in helping return the Space Shuttle program to safe flight. I think writing this book must have helped him deal with the Challenger accident by putting it down on paper. Many would have walked away.

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  • juho kojima
  • 09-30-20

Listen I did nothing wrong... IT WAS THE OTHERS

It seams that Mr. McDonald is a saint and everyone else are the are the devils. The author presents himself as the knight in shining armor who saved the STS program by himself. At first I thought, what a unselfish and great guy. As the story went on and on and on and... I got so fed-up with the self centered need of McDonald to show and tell how great he was/is ugh.

The book is WAY TOO TECHNICAL. You could have edited ten hours out of the book just by using technical terms and explanations that go on and on pages upon pages.

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  • William Rymer
  • 06-10-20

True conspiratorial masterpiece

Very heavy at times in terms of engineering jargon, but I guess that's why you are here!!

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  • Karim B
  • 02-23-20

Amazing story, great book - a must read.

Amazing story from a great engineer who stayed true to his values despite major adversity

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  • jtwestie
  • 06-27-19

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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  • Nathan
  • 01-07-19

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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  • Anonymous User
  • 08-21-19

Become an expert in SRB's

This book is incredibly fascinating but be prepared for some very VERY detailed chapters on solid rocket boosters, after 26 hours I feel like I could join Allan and his team!