The cover artwork is by EMSH. The above picture can be analyzed as an
excercise in rocket "accident reconstruction." The massive
launch system appears to be a crew carrying rocket (note the veiwing ports
atop the rocket). Unfortunately, there is no visible launch escape
system to protect onboard occupants from launch failures. Traditional means
of crew preservation include launch escape rocket towers, ejection seats,
or module escape rocket systems. None are suggested by the drawing. The
cause of the malfunction appears to be the failure of the crushed engine
rocket pod. Launch of the depicted booster requires balanced thrust from
the core rocket as well as the outboard cluster of rocket pods. Failure
of any of the four pod rockets would immediately tilt the
configuration, resulting in the above scene.
The failure of the Challenger STS-51L mission relates to the above painting.
The shuttle's solid rocket boosters(SRBs)
must provide balanced thrust throughout
ascent. When a seal failed on one of the two solid rockets, a support strut
was severed by the escaping flames. The severing of the strut caused the
affected SRB to separate from the configuration resulting in a severe and
fatal imbalance of thrust. For a detailed description of the Challenger
disaster, click here.