Re: Space Shuttle
"Even with Columbia, the issue of foam debris hitting the wings at liftoff was known, but downplayed - that happens when you let beancounters running the shop, instead of true technicians"
Not quite true.
Both fatal issues were known about prior to the Challenger & Columbia losses, but poor technical analysis by NASA led management to believe that the risks were within acceptable limits.
Poor statistical analysis of mean air temperature at launch & SRB O-ring failures meant that the link between cold early morning launches and O-ring burn through due to loss of elasticity was not established until after Challenger's loss. Had the analysis been done correctly, the risk factor would have been deemed unacceptable and launch would have been delayed till warmer launch conditions, saving the crew.
Likewise, Shuttle wing damage was a known issue subject to flawed technical analysis. In experiments in which foam blocks were fired at the composites used to construct the leading edge of the wing, the risk factor was again underestimated due to the poor computer models used to select the experiment parameters. Had the modelling been correct, larger foam blocks would have been used, and the leading edge vulnerability would have been found to be an unacceptable risk. This would likely have resulted in the grounding of the entire Shuttle fleet until the issue was fixed.