The ‘official’ report of the Challenger disaster has been released to the President and to the media. Some of it has been published, a portion of which purports to explain, in detail, exactly what happened, and why!  Mr. William Rogers, Chairman of the Presidential investigating panel said, “We know exactly how this accident occurred. I certainly hope there will be no nagging questions!” Unless more data becomes available to the public however, there is little chance that his hope can be realized! To any genuine old time rocket man such as myself, who worked with both molded and extruded solid fuel rocket propulsion more than forty years ago, the report, or such of it as has been made public, seems to leave several important questions, not only unanswered, but not even asked! For example – Why was it not mentioned that, although it began with the burn-through of a joint in the right S.R.B, the situation became fatal only with the explosion of the venturi section of the right S.R.B.? There can be no question that a section did explode. Every picture taken between five and fifteen seconds after the event, plainly shows a dozen or more various sized pieces of burning solid rocket fuel hurtling on separate trajectories, all of which diverge form the common point at which the explosion took place, each leaving behind it a solid path of dense smoke much larger than the object itself, and leaving no question as to what it was. Equally obvious was the fact that they could not have been ejected through the nozzle but could only have been hurled from a completely ruptured section of the rocket.

The fact that the rocket broke loose and continued to fly after losing its venturi section is not particularly strange. Even though the efficiency of an open tube is not as great as a properly shaped venturi, there would still be plenty of thrust to keep the rocket going as long as the fuel lasted.

2. It was stated that the air temperature at lift-off, was 36˚F, but that the shuttle was festooned with massive rows of icicles proving that the temperature had actually been well below the freezing point for many hours. No reference was made to any attempt to measure the temperature of the solid rocket fuel itself, especially that portion which had, for hours, been in relatively close proximity to the huge tank of liquid hydrogen at -423˚. Anyone who has had extensive experience with solid grain rockets, knows that, whether they are large or small, the grain temperature is one of the most important factors in the burning rate, the chamber pressure, and the resultant performance of the missile.

3. It was fairly obvious from the number and varying size of the chunks of solid fuel that were hurled from the booster casing when it exploded, that the fuel had already developed many cracks, and that the flame, instantly entering these cracks, had exerted tremendous force between the parts tending to split the cracks even farther, and to force much of it downward toward the venturi. If, in such a case, any considerable block of fuel is forced even partially into the venturi, and even for a fraction of a second, the chamber pressure may rise to a point where the rocket casing will rip like tissue paper. (I have, several times, witnessed this unexpected and embarrassing event!

Whether the plume of flame coming from the faulty joint of the S.R.B did burn through the outer shell, and then through the wall of the hydrogen tank, or whether the tank was instantly smashed by the explosion of the S.R.B. may be moot, but the observed and photographic data seems to point strongly to the latter. Even so, it would probably be necessary to postulate bursting of the oxygen tank at the same moment, to explain the huge and almost instantaneous fireball and resulting steam cloud that it became.

It is, of course impossible to ask all of the questions that come to mind, in a short article such as this, but we can and do pray that all facts may be fully determined and all errors corrected before the shuttle flies again. Another such tragedy in the next few years, could wipe out space travel for several generations!

(signed) Daniel W. Fry

(Hand-written) Cleona’s Corner   July 1986

We now come to the “4th of July.” What does it mean to you? Just a 3 day holiday? Or 3 days extra rest? To me it means great pride of my country and great LOVE for my country, and eyes tear-filled with love when our flag goes marching by in the parades, and a lump in my throat. I love my country DEEPLY, and am so thankful to God for being born here! Aren’t YOU? I live here by choice. Yes, I’m mad about Puerto Rico, London, and Hong Kong, but I will LIVE here.

If there was any better place, why do people give their all to get here? Sometimes even their lives are lost in the attempt:: We ARE the ‘melting pot’ of the world! – Is the offer not given in a huge bronze plaque near the left foot of our Statue of Liberty? – In 1903, that rare lady named Emma Lazarus, wrote this sonnet to the statue. “The new Colossus” – Liberty enlightening the world.”

Not like the frozen giant of Greek fame, with conquering limbs astride from land to land; Here at our sea-washed sunsets gates shall stand a mighty woman with a torch whose flame is the imprisoned lightening, and her name MOTHER OF EXILES, from her beacon hand glows worldwide welcome; her mild eyes command the air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame. Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” Cries she with silent lips – “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore.  Send these, the homeless, tempest tossed to me. I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”

Our Holy Bible says that, “To whom much is given, much shall be required.” We’ve all been given SO much in this land of ours that is so abundantly blessed. It is a stewardship. HE tells us so! To be stewards means to manage, to protect, to use wisely. Should we not then cherish our lovely earth and take care of it THOUGHTFULLY? We’re not – you know!

We CAN conserve our glorious natural resources, especially our water! Stop polluting our rivers, lakes, streams, ponds and oceans which fur- nish us the water we so vitally need!

Oh! we must protect our trees! Every tree to me, is a precious thing. Whatever would we do without them? Would you want to live on a totally barren earth? How soon it could all become a desert! Where would we get wood to build our houses, and for all objects made of wood, and they are indeed legion! We can’t all live in adobe houses!

Every piece of paper that is wasted equals part of a tree. I see this in myriad ways and feel saddened. Did you even once stop to think how L-O-N-G it takes to grow a tree? Years – dear friend; many years!

Where would our birds nest, rest and have baby birds without trees? We need their beauty, grace and songs.

The ‘little house’ that I’ve owned for 28 years, and which we hope to remodel someday, sits in a “little forest” of trees. The summer before I married Dr. Fry, the air conditioner was on 3 times. Yes, it does get to 90 plus and now ‘n then 100 or 102, but it’s cool inside because of my beautiful trees which I cherish.  There are birds there in abundance, and I’ve watched as they cleaned the tree leaves one-by-one, of any insects, bless them!

Don’t ever let anyone tell you that sparrow’s can’t sing, and beautifully! I’ve counted as high as 250 at a time, on the trees, arbors and vines. They must have a choir director because they begin together and all end exactly on the same note. Just beautiful! It is their way of, saying “Thanks” -.for the 500 lb.bags of milo that I buy to fill their feeders all winter long. They are God’s little hungry creatures, too, and they do the work of helping keep our planet clean. Without them we’d be knee deep in insects!

Science adjusts constantly by discoveries, technology etc., to help stop erosion and depletion of our resources. We need orderly maintainance from everyone! Won’t you please help? So much can be recycled!

When we have fully fouled the waters and the land – then what? Where will you live? How will you survive? It’s true, as Dr. Fry often; tells, someday many will live in space ships – (as seen in Star Trek) but not for some time. (Our tape on that subject is called “Preparing Live in Space“, and is $7.75 ea. Post paid.)

P.S. We buy only American. How about you? Next month (August) I’ll explain why this newsletter arrived early

(signed Cleona Q. Fry)