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Engineering Ethics

Spring 2020

Value Analysis Paper #1


Given your readings about, and our class discussion of, the Challenger case, write a short essay in which you do the following things in the following order:

1. Offer a brief linear narrative of the Challenger case. [1 paragraph]

2. Analyze the values at work in Morton Thiokol’s engineer-managers’ decision to advise NASA that it was safe to launch Challenger on the morning of January 28, 1986, despite the safety concerns presented by several of their SRM-team engineers. In this section of the paper, be sure to address each of the following questions:

(a) Which values do you believe motivated Morton Thiokol’s engineer-managers (specifically, Joe Kilminster and Jerry Mason) to advise NASA to proceed with the launch of Challenger, and what evidence do we have to support this view? [1 paragraph]

(b) Are these the values that Morton Thiokol’s engineer-managers should have considered? Why or why not? [1 paragraph]

(c) Which moral perspective, if any, seems to have guided Morton Thiokol’s engineer-managers’ decision-making in this case? What evidence do we have to support this view? [1 paragraph]

(d) If you had been an ethics advisor to Morton Thiokol during the days leading to the launch of Challenger, and you had been present for the Telecon between NASA and Morton Thiokol on the evening of January 27, 1986, would you have encouraged Morton Thiokol’s engineer-managers to recommend to NASA that they launch Challenger the following morning? If so, why? If not, why not? What specific advice about engineering values would you have offered the engineer-managers? [1 paragraph]

(e) Which moral lessons—lessons about how to resolve conflicts of values that arise within moral dilemmas—can current and future engineers learn from Morton Thiokol’s engineer-managers’ decision-making in the Challenger case? Why are these lessons valuable? Explain. [1 paragraph]

3. Include a “Works Cited” page listing all sources cited in the text of your essay.

Date due: Your essay must be submitted to SafeAssign (via Blackboard) by 11:59pm on Monday, 03 February 2020.

Length: 6 paragraphs + Works Cited page; typed; double-spaced.

For this assignment you may use any information presented during our class discussion, any documents posted on Blackboard, and any additional resources that you find to be relevant and helpful in making your case. Please be sure to cite the sources that you use (in any citation style that you wish), whether you use direct quotations from these sources or simply paraphrase from them.

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