An obituary in Sunday's New York Times serves as a reminder that spontaneous gestures of kindness can carry enormous significance. Roger Boisjoly was a trouble-shooter with Morton Thiokol, the maker of the rocket boosters for NASA. Months before the Challenger disaster he warned of the danger of the boosters' seals failing if temperatures at lift-off were too cold, precisely what was ultimately determined to have happened. The night before the lift-off, as temperatures plunged below freezing, Boisjoy and other engineers pleaded for the lift-off to be postponed. In the weeks and months that followed he emerged as the key whistle-blower of the investigation by a presidential commission -- a hero to some, but ostracized by many, including colleagues. He began to suffer from depression, headaches, and double vision. He was removed from space work. He sued the company twice, and both suits were dismissed. But here's the kindness part. Boisjoy said that he was sustained by a single gesture of support, a hug from Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, after his appearance before the commission.
Photo (NASA): Ice on the Challenger launch pad, hours before launch