About this course

This course provides instruction in engineering ethics through a case study of the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster. The minimum technical details needed to understand the physical cause of the Shuttle failure are given.

The disaster itself is chronicled through NASA photographs. Next the decision-making process—especially the discussions occurring during the teleconference held on the evening before the launch—is described. Direct quotations from engineers interviewed after the disaster are used to illustrate the ambiguities of the data and the pressures that the decision-makers faced in the months and hours preceding the launch.

The course culminates in an extended treatment of six ethical issues raised by Challenger.

This course teaches the following specific knowledge and skills:
Common errors to avoid in studying the history of an engineering failure: the retrospective fallacy and the myth of perfect engineering practice
Shuttle hardware involved in the disaster
Decisions made in the period preceding the launch
Ethical issue: NASA giving first priority to public safety over other concerns
Ethical issue: the contractor gives first priority to public safety over other concerns
Ethical issue: whistleblowing
Ethical issue: informed consent
Ethical issue: ownership of company records
Ethical issue: how the public perceives that an engineering decision involves an ethical violation

Publication Source: Mark Rossow, PhD, PE (retired)

4 hours
Certificate of completion
Beginner level
No prerequisites
No preparation required
1 year access


verified 100% moneyback guarantee
If you cancel within 10 days and you’re not completely satisfied, we’ll give you all your money back. No questions asked.
Training 2 or more people?

Get your team access to 631 top PE Courses courses anytime, anywhere.

Browse course content
1 Text
1 Quiz
4 hours
Section 1.
Study Guide
Section 2.
EEC Quiz
15 questions
Learn from the best
Cadistics Courseware / INSTRUCTOR
Engineering Marketplace Coordinator

Cadistics is an engineering content development company offering quality courseware in a wide variety of engineering disciplines. With a library of over 400 course titles available, topics include: civil, mechanical, environmental, powergen and renewables, structural, transportation, geotechnical and earth sciences, biological, land development, ethics, HSW, water resources, and more. Cadistics offers a Board of highly qualified Instructors, available anytime to interact with the student on all subject matter offered. Instructors come from a variety of backgrounds in public, and private sectors of engineering academia and practice. Visit us at: to view our credentials.

Mark Rossow, PhD, PE (retired) / AUTHOR

Dr. Rossow is a graduate of the University of Michigan with B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. degrees. He is a licensed Professional Engineer in the State of Illinois. He taught civil engineering for over 35 years, including six years at Washington University in St. Louis and 29 years at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, where he was the Chair of the Civil Engineering Department for ten years. His areas of expertise are in civil engineering and mechanics. He has consulted for various organizations, including government agencies and an international offshore drilling company. He has published numerous technical journal articles and technical reports for a variety of governmental agencies and private sector organizations.