Members of Congress and scientists yesterday praised the Rogers Commission investigation of the Challenger disaster and urged adoption of its recommendations so the U.S. space program can move forward.
The mother of astronaut Gregory B. Jarvis, interviewed by the Associated Press in Ilion, N.Y., said the National Aeronautics and Space Administration should be "overhauled," as recommended by the commission.
"I don't think it's right for someone to take seven lives -- seven beautiful lives -- and not do anything about it," Lucille (Tele) Ladd said. "I think something should be done . . . I think it should be overhauled; they shouldn't have let his happen.
Relatives of the other six Challenger astronauts killed in the accident declined comment or could not be reached.
Sen. John Glenn (D-Ohio), first American to orbit the Earth, said, "The mind-set of a few people in key positions at NASA has gone from an optimistic and super-safety-conscious 'can-do' attitude when I was in the program to an arrogant 'can't-fail' attitude on the day the Challenger exploded . . . .
"Even after many years of success, space travel is anything but routine, and it remains an endeavor that is mercilessly unforgiving of human error and faulty judgment," he said.
"Our task is now to make the fixes necessary, and then to get on with the program. For as Chairman William P. Rogers himself has said, America needs to be in space, and we cannot afford to retreat from that challenge," Glenn said.
George Washington University Prof. John Logsdon, a national space policy expert, said the commission did a "first-rate job of answering the question of what went wrong," but he added that a number of questions remain concerning U.S. priorities in space exploration.
He said the commission mandate was largely restricted to determining the cause of the Jan. 28 accident. The commission was not asked to address "the question of restoring the vitality of NASA overall or the issue of the goals and pace of the U.S. space program. Those are more fundamental issues," he said.
Logsdon said the Challenger disaster has "forced a fundamental reassessment of national space policy. And the Rogers Commission is only a part of that."
John Pike of the Federation of American Scientists said that although the report is a "good" one, there are "still a lot of unanswered questions." Pike said he is particularly concerned with the pattern of "administration pressure to fly more frequently and to quickly commercialize the shuttle without providing adequate financial resources," an area the commission did not explore.
Senate Majority Leader Robert J. Dole (R-Kan.) said of the report, "Until we have time to digest it, and until we hear from the experts, we should hold our fire. Let's not rush to judgment. Our space program is hanging in the balance." Dole urged NASA to quickly begin production of a fourth orbiter to replace Challenger. "As devastating as the Challenger loss was, it should not be allowed to blur our vision in the future, nor should it sour our taste for discovery . . . . NASA, with the support of Congress, should move quickly to correct the problems outlined by the presidential commission and get the shuttle program moving again."
Rep. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), who flew on a shuttle mission last January, said the commission had done "an excellent job, a very thorough job" and said the recommendations "will by and large be adopted by NASA."
"I think the report was thorough enough that there will be very little that will be added by the Congress," but further congressional oversight is appropriate "to see if anything has slipped through the cracks," said Nelson, chairman of the House Science and Technology space science and applications subcommittee.
"This report has shown serious errors in the hardware design and serious errors in judgment by management and by communications," he said.
He said he was "amazed" to learn that NASA had failed to test the O-rings in the shuttle's solid-rocket boosters, cited by the commission as the cause of the disaster, for performance in cold weather.
Nelson cautioned that while corrections and improvements will be made, "space flight is a risky business and you'll never eliminate all the risk."
Sen. Jake Garn (R-Utah), chairman of a key Appropriations subcomittee who traveled into space on the shuttle in April 1985, could not be reached for comment.
Rep. Manuel Lujan Jr. (N.M.), ranking Republican on the House Science and Technology Committee, said that although the report did not address congressional oversight, "my impression is that we've been too cozy with NASA and we have not had the proper oversight, and that is something that needs to be changed."
Sen. Slade Gorton (R-Wash.), chairman of the Commerce, Science and Transportation subcommittee on science, technology and space that begins hearings on the commission report today, said the panel will closely monitor "how promptly and completely NASA is following the commission's recommendations."
Rep. Bill Green (N.Y.), ranking Republican on the House Appropriations panel that handles NASA funding, said there was "a real question" whether NASA will meet its July 1987 target for a new flight. He said the Rogers Commission's report "very clearly proves the need for some sort of safety audit capacity within NASA . . . ."
Sen. Albert Gore Jr. (D-Tenn.), a leading congressional critic of NASA since the disaster, said, "When it is all put together and you look at the sum total of the evidence they presented, it really is striking. It makes you shake your head and wonder how in the world reasonable people could have allowed a launch to go forward."