Lot 385

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Richard Feynman Handwritten Envelope to the "Pres. Comm. on the Space Shuttle Challenger Accident." PSA Slabbed

Richard Feynman handwritten envelope, signed in print, "R.P. Feynman", at top left above return address for the United Nations Plaza Hotel. Addressed by Feynman to "Mr. Rogers, Chairman / Pres. Comm. on the Space Shuttle Challenger Accident" in Washington, D.C. also known as "The Rogers Commission." The envelope penned in blue ink measures 9.5" x 4.125". Light toning; opening tears, not affecting text; else very good condition. Encapsulated to an overall size of 5.5" x 12.5." From the estate of Richard Feynman.

Richard Feynman was a renowned physicist who was appointed to the Rogers Commission in 1986 to investigate the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster. Feynman was not the only scientist on the commission, but his contribution to the investigation has become legendary.

Feynman initially approached the investigation with skepticism, believing that NASA was trying to cover up the true cause of the disaster. He immediately noticed the flaws in NASA's launch decision process. He suspected that NASA's management was too focused on meeting deadlines and not giving enough attention to safety concerns. He also found that the engineers who had voiced safety concerns had been ignored or even reprimanded.

He conducted an independent investigation and soon came to the conclusion that the O-ring seals failed due to the cold temperature of the morning of the Challenger launch. He believed that the O-rings were not designed to withstand such cold temperatures. 

He then conducted a demonstration in a press conference to illustrate the potential dangers of the O-rings. He submerged an O-ring in a glass of ice water to demonstrate how the cold temperatures could cause the O-ring to become brittle and fail. This demonstration shocked the public and forced NASA to take the O-ring issue more seriously.

Feynman's investigation and report were critical in uncovering the root causes of the Challenger disaster. His findings led to a number of safety improvements at NASA, such as better communication between NASA and its contractors, improved safety protocols, and more rigorous testing of booster rockets. The findings also prompted Congress to pass the Challenger Act, which established an independent safety oversight board for all space exploration projects.

This item comes with a Certificate from John Reznikoff, a premier authenticator for both major 3rd party authentication services, PSA and JSA (James Spence Authentications), as well as numerous auction houses.


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March 15, 2023 11:00 AM EDT
Wilton, CT, US

University Archives

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