Monthly Archives: February 2009

Public Records,Official Secrets,and FOIA

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After engaging in a few communications of late, I feel it is probably necessary to point out some information to all you internet road warriors.

First of all, blogs are public, not private, by design.  And once its out there, you can’t take it back.  Somebody has copied, downloaded, or otherwise distributed it.  So, if you have comments to the blog — and I approve them, which automatically and immediately posts them — well, they are out there and that is that.  No going back.

Second, please know that I am a government official.  Sounds funny to me, but there it is.  NOTHING you write to me is private.  No blog comment, no email, no regular letter.  There is a federal law and several regulations that say that correspondence with me (or anybody else in the government, by the way) is part of the official record and it is AGAINST THE LAW to remove, erase, or delete it.  Somewhere all my email is being archived, for example.  Who is going to look at all those terrabytes of data is problematic, but I am required to keep them, my agency is required to keep them. 

So, much as I appreciate your inputs, cards, letters, tweets, emails, etc., etc., once you write me, it is NOT PRIVATE.  You should have no expectation of privacy in that correspondence.  At least for anything sent to my work address, actual or virtual. 

Further, almost anything that I have in my files, actual or virtual — and this includes email, blog posts, etc. — is subject to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).  That means that if a citizen (typically but not always a representative of the news media) requests the information from me, I am compelled by Federal Law and regulations to turn it over to them unless it is covered by a very few restrictions.  Nothing you might send to me fits under those few restrictions.

So, not to turn you off, but you need to know that if you write me, email me, comment to my blog, whatever, that information is part of the public record and you have no expectation of privacy nor any recourse to have the information deleted or erased. 

So now you know.

Ghosts in the OPF

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I had several meetings this afternoon at the Kennedy Space Center.  As the hour grew late, most office folks left, and it was time for me to leave, too.  But before I did, I engaged in one of my favorite activities; visiting the Orbiter Processing Facility.  Now there are three OPF bays, one for each orbiter.  Today I visited the folks working second shift on the good ship Endeavour.  That is always a great treat.  All the folks are so proud of what they are doing and they can almost always take a break to explain what they are working on.  It is really a neat experience and I wish everybody could join in. 

But it was somewhat subdued on 2nd shift, and there were a lot of quiet pockets.  Nobody was around the front of the bird, for example, and its always a little spooky when you are by yourself.

A couple of years ago, I was at KSC on a holiday weekend.  Having gotten bored with the beach and other touristy occupations, I wandered up to the OPFs and carded in. 

And there I found myself alone with an orbiter.  Wow.  Even the Ops Desk at the front was empty.  All the lights were on, the airconditioning running, but nobody was there.  Just me and the orbiter.  I guess that the door to the white room and the crew module was locked up; and I wouldn’t try that by myself anyway (getting into a bunnie suit is an art).  I know enough NOT TO TOUCH ANYTHING and of course, not to cross any “clears” or restricted areas. 

But it is really an interesting experience to be with a living breathing orbiter, all by yourself.  Thinking of all the places it has been; all the people it has carried, and all the thousands of folks who have worked on her, getting the ship ready to fly.  All in dead silence. 

And it always makes me think of all the people who wanted to go, some of them in the worst way.  People who have never had their chance to fly in space; at least not yet. 

Maybe someday.

Well, tonight I got to look at tiles being densified and applied around the nose landing gear door; SMTCH harnesses being connected in the mid body; valve and plumbing tests being run on the OMS.  The tires and wheels are off and I got a good look at the brakes, something you don’t normally get to see.  No access to the aft, so I couldn’t trace out the pressurization plumbing to see where the flow control valves, those little rascals, are hiding. 

I hope you all get the opportunity to do that some day — before we’re through.

 

The Power of Accepting Criticism

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Update Sunday Feb. 22 . . . .
The initiator of the email change has written and asked that I remove the original text.  As you can see, I have complied with that request.  I stand by my apology to the folks who have done great work in hypersonic research. 
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The Power of Accepting Criticism

 

Next week I am on the agenda of the NASA Project Management Challenge training event to give a talk on “The Power of Accepting Criticism”.  This was a talk that I planned to give last year, but a conflict caused me to back out at the last minute.  So up until last evening, I was feeling pretty good about having the speech ready, it was written a year ago, with only minor updates to polish it up.

 

Now I think I’m going to tear that speech up and write a new one.  Same topic, new info.  All because of an email exchange I had last evening.

 

Here is what I got – not as a comment to my blog, but as a direct email — as I was waiting for my plane to take me home:

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<Original email text deleted at the request of the initiator>

 

Ouch! 

 

On my blackberry I thumbed out a quick reply explaining my blog and felt pretty good that the note would assuage the email author. 

 

I was wrong.  Here was his response to my flimsy explanation:

 

 

<Original email text deleted at the request of the originator>

 

Double Ouch!

 

I had three and a half hours of electronic isolation on the plane last night to ponder this exchange.  Here is my conclusion:

 

He’s right. 

 

I did a tremendous disservice to those folks who have worked diligently in the area of hypersonic flight.  A number of teams have launched test vehicles:  Australian, Russian, others.  The most impressive was the NASA Hyper-X test program which had two very successful tests about five years ago.  Summarizing these efforts in two or three superficial sentences clearly demeans their achievements.  I would offer a humble apology to those who labor in this field, particularly all of those who on the Hyper-X project.

 

In review, it is clear that I have become lax in my technical explanations.  It is the height of laziness to brush off a subject because it is hard to explain to the lay public and therefore not to make the effort.  So I pledge to renew my efforts to be more technically precise in these posts while still attempting to make some of these subjects clear to the non-expert reader.

 

Second, I promise, no more whiny blogs about postings on the internet.  The nature of some of the discourse on the internet is simply a fact of twenty first century life which I am not going to be able to change and therefore it is unworthy of my complaint. 

 

Finally, no more putting down the public because they are not experts in the space field.  My job here should be education, not criticism.

 

Well, enough for one day.  I have a speech to revise.

Just put chicken wire in it!

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Akin’s Laws of Spacecraft Design #19:  The odds are greatly against you being immensely smarter than everyone else in the field.  If your analysis says your terminal velocity is twice the speed of light, you may have invented warp drive, but the chances are a lot better that you’ve screwed up.  

Dr. David Akin is the Director of the Space Systems Lab at the University of Maryland.  I have not met him, but I admire his writing.   I haven’t taken a class from him but the school of spaceflight hard knocks apparently uses his textbook.

A comment to one of my earlier blogs came in last evening.  The writer states that he had personally developed a method of making an immense amount of electricity essentially out of nothing.  We should get together, he continued, so he could share his plans with us, but he had to be careful to protect the patent by not giving out too many details.

Sigh.  Talk about unfamiliar with the basic concept. 

I did not post the comment.  Can you guess why?

When we were in the return to flight phase for the shuttle following the Columbia accident, we actively solicited public input.  We hoped that there were some good ideas out there in the public which might allow us to improve the shuttle and make it safer.  We set up a web page and an e-mail account for anybody and everybody to send their suggestions in.  We got hundreds, thousands of suggestions.  We studied them all, read them thoroughly, and responded to them individually.  It was a lot of work.  A couple of small businesses in the insulating foam world suggested that they had a product that might help.  On review, their formulations were not suited to space flight applications.  Nice thought though.  We got plenty of  . . . how can I say this delicately . . . nut case inputs.  Seriously there are people out there that need medication.  Maybe they are on it and the institution just lets them write letters.  There is the “numbers guy” for example . . . but the really nut case inputs are easily screened out.  What was the number one suggestion we got to improve the shuttle?  It had to do with the foam on the external tank.  The most popular idea – you got it from the title of today’s blog — just put chicken wire in it.

My grandparents lived in a house that was stucco sided.  That is how you put on stucco — cover your wall with chicken wire (or something a lot like it) and then apply the gooey substance that hardens and is held on to the house by the chicken wire.

We finally had to write up a form letter explaining why this was not a good idea.  I am not going to repeat it here.  Just suffice to say that some very elementary tests and analysis showed that having wire in the foam would lead to worse problems. 

I recently talked to the engineer who handled the web page and all our public input.  Out of the hundreds of submissions, did we actually get any ideas that turned out to be helpful.  Long silence on the other end of the phone.  Not really came the reluctant response.

During STS-51 when we tried to retrieve the errant Intelsat V communications spacecraft and had some difficulties capturing it, lots of folks called in to NASA asking why we didn’t just use suction cups on the spacecraft?  Hmm.  Vacuum.  Hmm.  Similarly, the suggestions to use magnets to capture the bird fell short when you realize that neither the structure (aluminum) nor the covering (glass solar cells) were magnetic.

I was disappointed.  But not, I guess, surprised.  Most of the technical subjects related to rocketry, space flight, and orbital mechanics is foreign to the everyday world that we all inhabit.  Not too many folks encounter cryogenic fluids in their day to day job, for example.

So were we wrong to ask?  Were we wrong to spend the time and effort to review all those inputs?  I don’t think so.  There is always the possibility that there is a genius out there that has THE suggestion, or at least the rudimentary idea of a suggestion that could lead to a breakthrough.  But those type of inputs are rare.  Generally, it turns out, folks who have studied and worked for many years on a complex and arcane technical subject really do know what they are doing.  The experts generally do have the right answer, or at least a number of options which may work with associated pro’s and con’s.  Just because the experts tell you that your idea won’t work doesn’t make you the next Edison . . .

I have to admit that this doesn’t sit well with me.  I’d like to believe that there are folks out there that can help us solve our problems if we would just ask for their inputs.  I hope you folks reading this will prove me right and that I am not just a cockeyed wishful thinker.

But you have got to do your homework.  The plan you propose should not violate the fundamental laws of physics and thermodynamics.  If you do propose such a plan — well, as I have heard it said, an extraordinary claim requires extraordinary support.  Handwaving does not cut it.  Oh, Dr. Akin has it again:

Akin’s Laws of Spacecraft Design #1:  Engineering is done with numbers.  Analysis without numbers is only an opinion.

And there is no shortage of unsubstantiated opinions. 

In fact, another of my disappointments is in the blog-o-sphere.  NPR recently had a book interview with an author who had written an treatise discussing why the internet is so full of vituperation, mis-information, and down right personal attacks.  Being on the internet is not for the faint hearted.  I don’t mind — and in fact welcome — a civil disagreement and constructive discussion.  But some days it seems like the internet is full of people pushing their own opinions with no facts to back them up and then engaging in the most offensive personal attacks possible when people disagree with them.  Whew.  Is there some place that you get points for being clever and vindictive in your responses?

So; I am still looking for good help, good constructive, grounded suggestions or discussions on how to improve things in the nation’s space program:  both technical and managerial.  If you just want to play some nastygram game, we’re not interested.

And if you want to make a technical suggestion, I am all ears — but I’ll really be impressed if your suggestion comes with analysis which doesn’t violate the laws of physics.  And I’ll really appreciate it if the discussion remains civil.

Presidents' Day

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Today (as I post this) is the 200th birthday of Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president of the United States.  Next Monday (February 16th this year) we celebrate Presidents’ Day in honor of the birthdays of both Lincoln and George Washington.  Poor George had the misfortune to live during the period when the English speaking world changed from the Julian Calendar to the new Calendar endorsed by Pope Gregory – which caused his birthday to move about ten days on the calendar.  So we can celebrate George Washington’s birthday about anywhere in the second half of February, I guess.  Which may be why the Federal holiday is movable and always on a Monday.  Pity that we don’t celebrate Jefferson’s birthday (April 13), too but then I suppose we are to celebrate all our presidents on Monday the 16th.   I wonder what the legacy of our new President will be?

 

Enough meandering.  Change is inevitable and comes increasingly quickly.  There are plenty of news stories or sociological papers about how quickly change is accelerating in our times.  How can we possibly cope with such huge and rapid change, they all ask.

 

Interesting, then, to contemplate the changes that occurred between Washington and Lincoln.  Was there any change to speak of? 

 

To answer that question I would offer up a short selection which is more thoughtful than anything I could write on my own.

 

The following is an excerpt from “Undaunted Courage” by Stephen Ambrose.  The book is about the Lewis and Clark expedition of 1804-6

 

Pay careful attention to the sentence which describes the biggest obstacle to change being that of a closed mind.

 

 

   “It seemed unlikely that one nation could govern an entire continent.  The distances were just too great.  A critical fact in the world of 1801 was that nothing moved faster than the speed of a horse.  No human being, no manufactured item, no bushel of wheat, no side of beef (or any beef on the hoof, for that matter), no letter, no information, no idea, order, or instruction of any kind moved faster.  Nothing ever had moved any faster, and, as far as Jefferson’s contemporaries were able to tell, nothing ever would. 

     And except on a racetrack, no horse moved very fast.  Road conditions in the United States ranged from bad to abominable, and there weren’t very many of them.  The best highway in the country ran from Boston to New York; it took a light stagecoach, carrying only passengers, their baggage, and the mail, changing horses at every station, three full days to make the 175 mile journey.  The hundred miles from New York to Philadelphia took two days.  South of the new capital city of Washington, D.C., there were no roads suitable for a stagecoach; everything moved on horseback.  . . .

     To the west, beyond the mountains, there were no roads at all, only trails.  To move men or mail from the Mississippi River to the Atlantic Seaboard took six weeks or more; anything heavier than a letter took two months at least. . . .

     People took it for granted that things would always be this way.  The idea of progress based on technological improvements or mechanics, the notion of a power source other than muscle, falling water, or wind, was utterly alien to virtually every American.  Writing in the last decade of the nineteenth century about conditions in the year of Jefferson’s inaugural, Henry Adams observed that “great as were the material obstacles in the path of the United States, the greatest obstacle of all was in the human mind.  Down to the close of the eighteenth century no change had occurred in the world which warranted practical men in assuming that great changes were to come.

     Since the birth of civilization there had been almost no changes in commerce or transportation. Americans lived in a free and democratic society, he first in the world since ancient Greece, a society that read Shakespeare and had produced George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, but a society whose technology was barely advanced over that of the Greeks.  The Americans of 1801 had more gadgets, better weapons, a superior knowledge of geography, and other advantages over the ancients, but they could not move goods or themselves or information by land or water any faster than had the Greeks and Romans. 

     But only sixty years later, when Abraham Lincoln took the Oath of Office as the sixteenth president of the United States, Americans could move bulky items in great quantity farther in an hour than Americans of 1801 could do in a day, whether by land (twenty five miles per hour on the railroads) or water (ten miles an hour upstream on a steamboat).  This great leap forward in transportation – a factor of twenty or more – in so short a space of time must be reckoned as the greatest and most unexpected revolution of all – except for another technological revolution, the transmitting of information.  In Jefferson’s day, it took six weeks to move information from the Mississippi River to Washington, D.C.  In Lincoln’s, information moved over the same route by telegraph all but instantaneously.

     Time and distance, mountains and rivers meant something entirely different to Thomas Jefferson from what they meant to Abraham Lincoln.”

 

 

 

So with change inevitable and accelerating, our economic health depends on our innovation and flexibility to provide new products and services in the future; some of which are not even conceived in the public mind today. 

 

NASA has long been an agent of innovation, and there is ample documentation of new products, services, companies, and entire sectors of the economy that were spun off or at least advanced by what we do.  For that reason alone, NASA is a good investment for the country.

 

It is incredibly important to be innovative and that is why we must look to the best practices to encourage innovation and the development of ideas into productive parts of our economy. 

Burning Rocks

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There is an apocryphal story in flight control.  Like many apocryphal stories there may have been a kernel of truth somewhere in the distant past, but the story has morphed over time.  Now the story has value for didactic purposes:  it has a moral or some teaching point.  That is why apocryphal stories persist.

 

Way back before the first moon landing in 1969, some senior planetary scientist published a theory that the lunar rocks were highly energized by the sunlight, the solar wind, or cosmic rays or something.  So highly energized is the dust and rocks that when the first lunar explorers would return to the lunar module, close the hatch, and – still encased in their now dusty space suits – repressurize the cabin of the lunar module to 5 pounds per square inch pressure of pure oxygen, the rocks and dust would spontaneously burst into flame.  Catastrophe.

 

This prediction came to light less than two weeks before the launch of the first lunar landing.

 

The leaders of NASA scratched their heads.  Obviously such a prediction by a senior scientist in the field must be considered seriously.  But on the other hand, how do you test that theory to see if it is true?  With no moon rocks there was no way to test the hypothesis.  Consulting other experts was inconclusive:  maybe yes, maybe no.  The entire space program had been straining for years to get to the first lunar launch; the Soviet Union was right on our heels, what should we do?  Stand down for months to send a robot to the moon to test the problem? 

 

They ignored it. 

 

Yep, that’s right, they ignored it.  Pressed on and launched.  If there was angst, they hid it.  Did their pulse rate quicken when the hatch closed on the LM?  They didn’t show it.

And, fortunately, the rocks did not spontaneously combust in the pure oxygen atmosphere of the Apollo modules. 

 

So the story entered legend.  Any type of issue which was discovered at the last minute, which fundamentally and monumentally challenged a space mission, and which could not be tested or analyzed in any reasonable time became known in the community as a “burning rocks” issue.

 

As Flight Director, it became part of my job assignment (other duties as assigned, I guess) to listen to burning rocks issues.  Without exception, on every flight, not one, not two, but several people would come to my office, quietly close the door, and confess the demons that were plaguing their souls.  Something that had been bothering them for months, but which had never been spoken aloud before.  Procedures that might not work, tests that had not been performed, uncertainties about parts of the mission ahead both large and small; the Flight Director becomes Father Confessor to all kinds of folks.

 

All of these issues had several characteristics in common.  First, they had been on the individual’s mind for a long time but had never been brought up anywhere, any time, to anybody before.  Second, they were all fundamental issues that, to deal with properly, would require months or years of testing, analysis, or redesign.  Third, the individual bringing them forward had no idea how to deal with the issues.

 

Why these issues were not brought up long before is a mystery to me.  There must be a psychological explanation, but I’m no psychologist.  If the individual had spoken up earlier, there might have been time to deal with the problem; get experts together, do some analysis, run some test, rework a crew procedure, something.  But these confession sessions always always always came just days before launch.  Too late for anything to be done but to have a session with Father Confessor and ask for absolution.

 

On a rare occasion, the Flight Director might deem the problem as worthy of bringing forward to Program Management, or at least of getting a team assembled to start working on potential solutions.  But mostly the Flight Director would determine that it was too late, the probability was too low, the consequences not high enough.  So the Flight Director would just listen, nod, tell the individual “I got it” and then quietly let the matter drop.

 

Does that sound horrible?  I have to tell you that most of these concerns were so far outside the realm of normal or even abnormal operations that the risk seemed very low.  But when we compared notes, it turns out that every Flight Director (and there are a lot of us) would get several of these sessions before launch.  And it had been going on since the  manned space flight started.  Maybe it works that way with robotic launches too, I don’t know.

 

And in every case, the confessing individual went away, much relieved that his or her conscience was clear because somebody in authority (the Flight Director) had been told.  Having done the very littlest, minimal thing they could do, they could believe they were off the hook if the bad thing really happened.  Management had been informed.  Yep.

 

And, other than the fact the Flight Director did not sleep well on those last nights before the launch, none of those burning rocks issues ever came true.  In my experience, we have had plenty of other problems and issues, large and small, but not the ones that were ever the subject of the last minute confession by worried engineers.

 

And OK, the Flight Director isn’t going to sleep well that last couple of nights before launch anyway.  What are a few more demons to face at 3 AM?

 

And the moral of this particular story?

You want to put people into space? 

 

You better learn to sleep with burning rocks.

Don't Call Him Willy Any More

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Back when the world was much younger than it is now, I was a young shuttle flight controller working in the MCC on several early flights.  We were all learning about the shuttle in those days, and one fellow I knew actually saved the shuttle because he knew what to do when the unexpected happened.

I was  PROP, he was GNC; we sat together down in the front row, right corner of Mission Control.  Willy was one of the USAF “detailees” assigned to learn to be shuttle flight controllers.  In those early days there was a plan to eventually turn one of NASA’s shuttles over to the USAF to use for “classified” missions.  After the Challenger accident, all those plans were cancelled, but in the early 1980’s the shuttle was supposed to take over ALL space transportation duties for the United States.  That is what STS stands for:  “Space Transportation System”.  As in ‘THE’ Space Transportation System.  All others to become obsolete.  Or something like that.  It was a long time ago.

Willy was an up and coming Captain in the USAF and made a great GNC.  He knew the guidance, navigation, and flight control systems forwards and backwards.  We worked together a lot in those days since the PROP console (mine) was responsible for the attitude control thrusters, their plumbing, etc., while the GNC console was responsible for the Auto Pilot that called on those thrusters to maintain attitude.  Even in those days, Willy demonstrated what military men call “command presence”.

But almost as important, Willy could do the most devastatingly funny imitation of our legendary boss, Gene Kranz.  Willy had the mannerisms down exactly right, could put the gruff intonation into the right pitch, and deliver a comedy routine that had all of us in the trench in stitches.  Always during LOS or debrief between sim runs, of course.  Never during the training runs, and especially not during a real flight. Hmm.

After the shuttle main engines cut off and the External Tank is jettisoned, there is still a lot of the main propulsion system propellant — liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen – trapped in the large pipes in the orbiter aft compartment.  Those plumbing lines are up to 17 inches in diameter and could hold several hundred pounds of volatile cryogenic fuel.  There was dump routine which was automatically executed right after the ET separation, but it left a lot of residuals in the line causing headaches later.  Not really a safety issue, but a nuisance and something that could cause interruptions later on.

The booster guys came up with a dandy plan to get rid of these propellants faster.  The LOX dump went out the main engines and the LOX lines were pressurized with helium to expel that trapped fluid.  The LH2 dump went out a vent on the side of the orbiter, just under the tail, and was unpressurized.  Why not open the valves and pressurize the LH2?  And at the same time, open the small LO2 valve nearby.  Both those actions would cause a more thorough dump and eliminate the pesky vacuum inerting procedures that interrupted later activities.

So we tried it.  Worked great in the simulator.  Hmm.  In flight, . . . .well . ..

Ascent is always a tense time.  Willy, I, and all the other flight controllers were glued to the data.  Everything went nominally all through mainstage.  No systems issues.  MECO, ET sep, dump start, OOOPS!

The increased propellant dump flow out the side of the orbiter caused it to bank sharply — the wing headed for the jettisoned but not distant ET.  Willy, calm as could be, relayed the instructions to the crew to regain attitude control.  The wing missed the tank, by how much I don’t know, but not by much.

It was all over in just a couple of minutes.  We took a deep breath and got about the business of flying the orbiter in space.

After Challenger, all the USAF “detailees” were pulled out of flight control.  I haven’t seen Willy in probably two decades until I ran into him recently.  He has done well in his USAF career, has stars on his epaulets now.  I wouldn’t recommend you call him Willy these days. 

But then, I haven’t called him that since the day he saved the shuttle.

And I bet you didn’t even know.

 

Moving Forward

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After making a blog post, two or three days may pass before I get back to see what comments have come in and to post those that are pertinent (it is surprising how many pharmaceutical companies I have never heard of want to post their ads in blog comment spaces).  However, my email overflowed this weekend with comments to my last post.  This evening, I have posted almost of those comments at this site.  I have also been reading some of the comments on other parts of the internet, I think it is time to refocus as we start the week.

First of all, the Barriers Analysis Team of the JSC Innovation and Inclusion council who put together the video, also provided some recommendations to alleviate those problems.  Justin Kugler provided an excellent description of those proposals on the Open NASA website.  His words are far better than anything I could write on the subject, so I recommend you go read them at this address: 

http://www.opennasa.com/2009/01/30/pathways-beyond-the-barriers/

If you are interested in my thoughts as to how you can avoid being trapped in a black hole of innovation destruction, I would offer some thoughts on how to lead your leader — as it appeared in the NASA Knowledge Sharing Academy publication.

http://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/20080014349_2008014369.pdf

So here are at least a couple of ways in which we can build the culture at NASA toward being more open to innovation, and when we run into the barriers that stifle dissent there may be a few tools to use to overcome those barriers.

Now, if I might, I would like to clarify a couple of personal points which have arisen in the discussion.

For the record, I personally think that John Shannon has made a better Space Shuttle Program Manager than I did.  I believe he has brought stability, rationality, and clarity to the Space Shuttle Program in ways that I did not and could not.  He has been a faithful friend.  The internet chatter that there was some political maneuvering on his part when job changes were made in the program office is both inaccurate and repugnant to me.   

Going on . . .

One of the reasons that the video so powerfully affected me was that I have been on both sides of the table.  Oh yeah, I have stifled plenty of dissent and innovation in my time.  Some of it even recently.  I believe that I am a better manager and leader than I was five years ago, or even one year ago.  And, God willing, I will be a better and more open manager next year or five years from now.  So if you hear stories about “bad Wayne”, well, they are probably true. I wish they weren’t.  But my goal is to be better tomorrow than I was yesterday.  And I am daily astonished and amazing by learning something that I didn’t know the day before.

Finally, I would like to say that my purpose in writing these blogs is to help NASA become a better place.  Sometimes that takes the form of telling a story from the ‘old days’ — but always a story with a point. Sometimes it is describing a good example of leadership; sometimes it is pointing out a bad example — to be avoided.   Sometimes a post is merely an attempt to explain some arcane aspect of what we are doing to the general  public in a way that I hope is comprehensible to the layperson.  So my post on stifling dissent is nothing more than an attempt to help the NASA culture become better than it is.

With the greatest of respect to all my colleagues, I think NASA is the best hope for our country and our world.  If the current organization is less than perfect, that is because it is made up of fragile and limited human beings.  Every one of those NASA employees that I have met have only one goal: doing what is best and most productive to explore the universe.   We don’t always succeed, and we certainly don’t always agree on the interim goals but we are united in a common purpose.  There is nowhere else I would care to work.