Hansen, McDonald book on space shuttle accident to receive prize for best book

AUBURN – Auburn University history professor and Honors College director James R. Hansen of Auburn University and Allan J. McDonald, former director of  the Space Shuttle Solid Rocket Motor Project for Morton-Thiokol Inc., will receive the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics 2011 Gardner-Lasser Aerospace History Literature Award for their book, “Truth, Lies and O-Rings: Inside the Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster.”  The book was published by the University Press of Florida in 2009.

Hansen and McDonald will receive the award at a ceremony in August, held in conjunction with the 49th AIAA/ASME/SAE/ASEE Joint Propulsion Conference and Exhibit in San Diego, Calif. The award includes a medal, rosette pin, certificate and honorarium.

“Dr. Hansen has provided excellent leadership for Auburn University’s Honors College and at the same time built a national and international reputation as a scholar and researcher,” Provost Mary Ellen Mazey said. “He is an excellent role model for our faculty, and we are fortunate to have him at Auburn University.”

The award is presented for the best original contribution to the field of aeronautical or astronautical historical nonfiction literature published in the last five years dealing with the science, technology, and/or impact of aeronautics and astronautics on society. Hansen becomes the only multiple winner of this prestigious award, having received it previously for his 2005 New York Times Bestseller, “First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong.”

“The fiery destruction of Space Shuttle Challenger back in January 1986 on live television mere moments after launch remains an indelible image in our nation’s collective memory,” said Hansen. “It was my honor to help Allan McDonald tell his remarkable story, as Al was someone very much on the inside of what was happening at NASA who recognized the potential disaster and tried to prevent it.”

In praising “Truth, Lies, and O-Rings,” reviewers have written: “Without question, this book is the best one yet to penetrate the engineering and organizational causes that led to the Challenger accident,” and “This book is likely to stand as the most comprehensive rendering of this tragic episode in the history of the U.S. space program.”

A number of university engineering departments around the country, including those at Texas A&M, Montana State University, Utah State University and the U.S. Air Force Academy, have adopted the book as a required text for courses dealing with engineering ethics.

Contact: James Hansen, (334) 844-6624 (hansejr@auburn.edu), or
Mike Clardy, (334) 844-9999 (clardch@auburn.edu)