October 2021 Auction Ends Thursday, October 28th, 5pm Pacific

Category

Search By:

Richard Feynman autograph letter signed, composed 24 May 1986 to William Rogers, Chairman of the Rogers Commission, established by President Reagan to investigate the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster. Feynman pens this fascinating draft letter after he and Rogers had reached a compromise regarding exposing what Feynman calls the ''very serious and extensive 'flaws' in [NASA] management. Not just a crack but a general disintegration.'' Feynman here agrees to include his minority report - which criticizes NASA management as essentially inept, as an appendix to the full report (''rather than being lost in the archives''), and closes the letter with a humorous sign-off, ''Commissioner Feynman, Nobel Prize, Einstein Award, Oersted Medal and utter ignoramus about politics.'' The final Rogers Commission Report was released on 9 June 1986, approximately two weeks after this letter.

Composed in fine blue felt-tip, letter reads, ''Dear Mr. Rogers / I am sorry I had to leave at noon Saturday before we had time to discuss fully the problem that our report might seem overly critical of the NASA shuttle program. I would like to explain my views in more detail for your consideration. (See, I've developed a conditioned reflex, after this morning, hearing Neil make corrections!) [Portions crossed out.]

It is our responsibility to find the direct and proximate causes of the accident, and to make recommendations on how to avoid such accidents in the future. Unfortunately we have found, as the proximate cause, very serious and extensive 'flaws' in management. Not just a crack but a general disintegration. Our report lists them with our evidence for our view.

This raises serious questions for our nation as to how to continue on with the space program. There are very large questions of budget, what other projects to follow to supplement the shuttle (i.e., Expendables?) to maintain scientific, and more importantly, military strength, commercial space applications, etc. Our entire position & program in space must be reconsidered by people, Congress and the President. We did not discuss these matters - and properly so. The President was surely not asking us to make such decisions [crossed out] recommendations in this larger theater. We were asked, as I see it, to supply information needed to make such decisions wisely.

It is our duty to supply such information as completely, accurately, and impartially as possible. We have laid out the facts and done it well. The large number of negative observations are a result of the appalling condition NASA shuttle program has gotten into. It is unfortunate, but true, and we would do a diservice [sic] if we tried to be less than frank about it. The president needs to know it if he is to make wise decisions.

If it appears we have presented it in an unbalanced way, we should give evidence on the other side. Let us include somewhere in findings a series of specific [?] that this or that is very good, or in recommendations - that they keep up the good work in this and that project specifically. One example is the software verifications system, I think, altho I seem to be polyanna [sic] & a little dumb. I thought (apparently incorrectly?) that NASA was very helpful and courteous in giving us all the information (and doing tests) we asked for, especially for our accident panel.

A general statement, without presenting the particular evidence in the report, that NASA is after all actually doing a wonderful job would weaken our careful report - and might even make us look foolish, if it is contrasted with the mess of evidence we ourselves present in a careful documented way.

Well, I'll be back Monday and we can discuss it with other commissioners more fully next week. Maybe they may explain to me where my point of view is off base and I will change my mind - now I doubt it, of course, I feel very strongly about this now.

I am satisfied that my 'Reliability' contribution need not go in the main report but will go into the appendix more or less intact rather than being lost in the archives. It is a good compromise we have come to. / See you soon, Commissioner Feynman, Nobel Prize, Einstein Award, Oersted Medal and utter ignoramus about politics.''

Richard Feynman would live fewer than two years after penning this letter, long before the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster in 2003, the investigation into which revealed a continued culture of poor decision making and risk tolerance at NASA. After the Challenger disaster, the space shuttle program was shuttered. Four page letter on two sheets of United Nations Plaza Hotel stationery measures 8.5'' x 11''. Folds, else near fine. From the Richard Feynman estate.

Richard Feynman Handwritten Letter Signed to William Rogers, Chairman of the Space Shuttle Challenger Commission -- Feynman Signs Off, ''Richard Feynman...utter ignoramus about politics''Richard Feynman Handwritten Letter Signed to William Rogers, Chairman of the Space Shuttle Challenger Commission -- Feynman Signs Off, ''Richard Feynman...utter ignoramus about politics''Richard Feynman Handwritten Letter Signed to William Rogers, Chairman of the Space Shuttle Challenger Commission -- Feynman Signs Off, ''Richard Feynman...utter ignoramus about politics''Richard Feynman Handwritten Letter Signed to William Rogers, Chairman of the Space Shuttle Challenger Commission -- Feynman Signs Off, ''Richard Feynman...utter ignoramus about politics''
Richard Feynman Handwritten Letter Signed to William Rogers, Chairman of the Space Shuttle Challenger Commission -- Feynman Signs Off, ''Richard Feynman...utter ignoramus about politics''
Richard Feynman Handwritten Letter Signed to William Rogers, Chairman of the Space Shuttle Challenger Commission -- Feynman Signs Off, ''Richard Feynman...utter ignoramus about politics''
Click above for larger image.
Bidding
Current Bidding
Minimum Bid: $35,000
Current Bid: $0
Number Bids: 0
Please register or login if you want to bid.
Email A Friend
Ask a Question
Have One To Sell

Auction Notepad

 

You may add/edit a note for this item or view the notepad:  

Submit    Delete     View all notepad items