Directed by Daniel Junge and Steven Leckart, ‘Challenger: The Final Flight’ is a Netflix original documentary series that takes a look back at the January 28, 1986, Challenger Space Shuttle tragedy that claimed the lives of seven innocent individuals – including that of a teacher, who was selected to be the first civilian to fly into space. Incorporating training data, archival footage, and one-on-one interviews with program officials, astronauts, journalists, engineers, and the family members of the fallen crew, this miniseries examines why the shuttle blew apart and how it impacted the space program and the individuals in the following years. Among those who are featured is Allan McDonald, the Morton Thiokol executive who tried to warn NASA about the risks of the launch that day.
Who Is Allan McDonald?
After Allan J. McDonald received his Bachelor of Science degree in Chemical Engineering from Montana State University in 1959 and his Master’s degree in Engineering Administration from the University of Utah in 1967, he joined ATK Thiokol Propulsion / Morton Thiokol as an engineer. Then, as time went forward, so did his career, and when the Challenger catastrophe happened, he held the position of Director of the Space Shuttle Solid Rocket Booster Program. After it happened, though, he was, of course, laid off, but then, when the truth came forward about how he had tried to prevent Challenger’s launch by warning NASA officials about the O-Rings in the boosters not working properly in the cold weather, he was reinstated.
Therefore, Allan McDonald became the only person in American history to be reinstated to his job by an act of Congress. Subsequently, in 1989, he became the Vice President of Engineering for Space Operations in the company and was handed the job of overseeing the redesign and re-qualification of the solid rocket motors. He became the executive that was responsible for all the strategic, space, tactical rockets, ordnance products, energetics, and commercial products that ATK Thiokol Propulsion had it in its archive. For 42 years, Allan McDonald stayed loyal to this company, only retiring in 2001 so as to move on to other ventures. But, in saying that, to this date, he still remains active in the world of space.
Where Is Allan McDonald Now?
Residing in the Greater Salt Lake City Area in Utah, Allan McDonald is currently working as an Aerospace Consultant and Author. With his Honorary Doctorate Degree in Engineering from Montana State University, from 2014-2016, he served as an Adjunct Professor at the Air Force Test Pilots School at the Edwards Air Force Base in California. During that time, he was also a member of Dr. Mark Maier’s Servant Leadership Program at Chapman University in Orange County, California, and a member of an “Engineering Ethics Panel,” funded by a grant from the United Engineering Fund.
Allan also served as a fellow member and a distinguished guest professor for the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, and was a member of the Board of Directors of Orbital Technologies Corporation in Madison, Wisconsin, before it merged with Sierra Nevada Corporation in 2014. Going back a little further, in 2009, he co-authored a book entitled “Truth, Lies, and O-rings: Inside the Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster,” which was published through the University Press of Florida. Then, he also provided a chapter to the “Encyclopedia of Aerospace Engineering (Volume 2): Propulsion and Power,” which was published in December of 2010.