26 years later, pessimism is still needed
We lost Challenger twenty-six years ago today. I was in third grade. I was in a wedding the day we lost Columbia. Both of them were lost because of the fatal design flaw of placing the human-carrying vehicle next to the explosivey-stuff. In the first case, the explosivey-stuff done blowed up real good and in the second, a piece of the explosivey-stuff tank blew a hole in the human-carrying vehicle.
If, instead of next to the tank, the shuttle sat on top of the tank, with the engines attached to the tank itself, then the Challenger would not have made orbit but might have been saved. Columbia would have returned unharmed with such a configuration.
What does it matter? Not much to the crews and families, but a hell of a lot to engineers of tomorrow’s systems. If we think of how badly things might break, and how they might break, we can envision ways to make them better. Society benefits when engineers are pessimistic about their designs and work to improve them.