Culture Change at NASA

According to the creation myth, in the beginning, NASA was full of young, cocky, innovative, hard charging folks who got us to the Gene Kranz's School for Young Gentlemen circa 1967moon inside a decade.  They were brash, confident, and did not suffer fools gladly.  If they were worried, they didn’t show it.  Stories abound of 100+ hour work weeks end to end, almost impossible to believe.  Their theme -as posted on the factory walls – was ‘waste anything but time’.  Going to the moon was the cliché for doing the impossible and they were going to be the ones to do it.  They were the epitome of risk-taking, innovative, creative, flexible, nimble, achievers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the way to the moon, the Apollo 1 fire happened.  It was a tragedy.  It was beyond awful.  With 20-20 hindsight, the root cause of the fire was obviously sheer stupidity.  There were investigations and panels and recommendations.  As in every accident investigation, the investigation board found that communications between people and organizations were faulty.  Management culture was poor.  And the safety organization was strangely silent on dangerous situations which they had been warned about.  So the recommendations, in additional to technical things, included improving communications, changing management culture, and reinvigorating the safety organization.  And even though everybody at NASA believed the fire was a one-time thing, NASA tried to improve.  Some bureaucratic checks took a little of the nimbleness out of the system in the name of safety, but mostly NASA got a pass because we had to beat the Russians.  The Eagle landed, the mission was accomplished, and time passed.

One the way to exploiting the space frontier with our new space shuttle, 19 years and one day after the Apollo 1 fire, the Challenger and her crew were lost during launch.  It was a tragedy.  It was beyond awful.  With 20-20 hindsight, the root cause of the accident was obviously sheer stupidity.  There were investigations and panels and recommendations.  As in every accident investigation, the investigation board found that communications between people and organizations were faulty.  Management culture was poor.  And the safety organization was strangely silent on dangerous situations which they had been warned about.  So the recommendations, in addition to technical things, included improving communications, changing management culture, and reinvigorating the safety organization.  And even though everybody believed that the accident was a one-time thing, NASA tried to improve.  More methods to communicate were added, more bureaucratic checks were added, the system slowed down and became more costly in the name of safety, but mostly NASA got a pass because we still had to beat the Russians, this time to build a permanent space station, and they were ahead of us.  The Hubble was launched, the assembly of the Space Station started, and time passed.

17 years and three days after the loss of Challenger, Columbia disintegrated during reentry and her crew was lost.  With 20-20 hindsight, the root cause of the accident was obviously sheer stupidity.  There were investigations and panels and recommendations.  As in every accident investigation, the investigation board found that communications between people and organizations were faulty.  Management culture was poor.  And the safety organization was strangely silent on dangerous situations which they had been warned about.  So the recommendations, in addition to technical things, included improving communications, changing management culture, and reinvigorating the safety organization. 

This time, nobody inside or outside of NASA believed that the Columbia accident was a one-time thing.  So we tried to change the very root culture at NASA.  Strangely, I found myself at the epicenter of the culture change; one of the least likely managers ever to participate in touchy-feely human relations changes.  We got trained by professional councilors on how to play nice and communicate affirmingly. At the end of seven years, some change is evident.  Safety is reinvigorated; the management culture has bent toward more safety; and  communications, well, need more work and probably always will.  Dissenters must be heard and understood, and mostly placated; much more bureaucracy has been added in the name of safety, and everybody now has a “stop work” card to play if they have a concern.  NASA did not get a pass, the Russians are no longer our competition but our partners, and the debate intensifies as to whether America should send humans into space.  Meanwhile, the Space Station has nearly been completed, the shuttle is about to be retired, its mission accomplished, and time has passed.

Now conventional wisdom says NASA is risk averse.  Afraid of failure, afraid to take risks, requiring draconian and expensive safety insight for even mundane tasks.  They say that NASA depends too much on extensive testing and expensive analysis to prove that every operation is as safe as humanly possible before undertaking it.  That is the conventional wisdom proffered by the media, the pundits, and those who want to be in the space business. To be successful in space, we hear, risks must be taken, fear must not inhibit innovation.  The possibility of failure must be deeply discounted and the consequences of failure should not be contemplated very hard lest we waiver from our goals.  We need organizations that are nimble, flexible, innovative, and risk taking to be successful in space. 

In short, NASA should turn to private enterprise for a ride to space.

So how can a staid, grey, old, inflexible bureaucracy approve flying its people on somebody else’s rocket?  Experience has been a hard teacher; everybody at NASA has been instilled with a great personal responsibility for safety; the knowledge that if the widget that they are responsible to monitor causes failure it will be their own personal fault.  Do you untrain the culture of the last seven, no –  forty, years as drilled into every NASA engineer and manager?  Probably not.  But if American astronauts are to ride to the international space station on a rocketship that NASA did not build, there will have to be a tectonic shift in NASA culture.  Regardless of who builds the ship or operates it or what shape it takes, one thing is certain; NASA’s role will have be different.  That will take a tremendous amount of energy, and time must pass.

In the middle of the last culture change I sent the following paragraph to the shuttle troops.  I still stand by it and it rings strangely true for the future, too.

Life is full of gray choices.  Deciding the work completed is good enough because more will not make it perfect.  Ten thousand gray choices; doing what we must do, and not a bit more because that would take away from other work that is absolutely critical to be done right.  When we have done what we can do, when we have driven the risk to the lowest practical level where it can be driven, then we have to accept the fact that it is time to make a decision and move on.  Because history is waiting for us.  But history will not wait forever, and it will judge us mercilessly if we fail to face tough choices and move ahead.

25 thoughts on “Culture Change at NASA”

  1. Once again, thanks for your comments, insights, and wisdom.

    Our country is mired in debt, so NASA can’t expect to get unlimited budgets. That’s the reality. Without some level of commercial space flight, NASA will be hard pressed to leave LEO. On this point, I agree with the Augustine panel. Everyone seems to have their favorite rocket. I have confidence that you guys will sort it out.,

    Your last paragraph is so true. Gray is a tough word for many/most engineers.

    If NASA, politicians, and the American public are not willing to accept some risk to explore new frontiers, then we will become a second rate country with a lower standard of living. History surely
    teaches us that lesson. From listening to many Astronaut interviews,
    they certainly are not naive when accepting this risk.

    As someone who has closely followed the space program from the very beginning, I remember the excitement of the 1960’s and all the accomplishments of Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo. In particular, I remember the Apollo fire, the first Saturn V launch, the first lunar landing, and Apollo 13.

    I’m hoping to live long enough to see NASA return to those days when our whole country was full of excitement about space exploration and kids were inspired to study math, science, and engineering. In recent years, Eileen Collins did the best job of articulating those dreams.

    I think NASA is fortunate to have experienced and thoughtful people like you and Gerst.

    Happy trails…..

  2. Mr. Wayne. I agree to its concern to if keeping the security, through rigorous definitive procedures and understand its preference for the prudence before the courage. I cannot only leave to question if it is the case to create a commission specialized in the bureaucratic development. NASA, that I believe to have as principle the evolution of technologies, cannot create historical sacrum sanctity in its way to proceed. If it desires to NASA one constant growth, a constant evolution, must mainly improve its bureaucratic procedures. It does not treat to loosen the severity, but to become more efficient, that is rapidity and perfection (I believe that it is the work to add rapidity to the perfection). The evolution immobility of the bureaucratic procedures hardens and limits the proper scientific production, with certainty. It is as a tree: it tends to grow, but if you props and ropes mooring cable the twigs, and she cuts them, so that they always follow a way, will create a dwarfed tree. It will give some fruits, but it will be more subjects to the shade of a bigger tree that grows with more freedom. NASA is the greater of the trees, is certain, but it can give fruits still more if she will be able to balance to the wind.

  3. Sending our astronauts on other’s vehicles is not an entirely new proposition.

    Although not a totally independent space vehicle, since it was parasitic off the Shuttle, the Spacehab Module was commercially designed, developed, tested, certified, integrated, and operated during flight by a team of approximately 185 commercially funded Spacehab people with minimal NASA oversight by four NASA civil servants during the course of the Commercial Middeck Augmentation Module contract from about 1991-1995. A couple of us, the civil servants who oversaw the Spacehab effort, had developed, written and edited the human interface standards (NASA Std 3000) and then had developed the human interface requirements for space station. We also had considerable direct experience in subsystem management and in payload integration, including safety certification for payloads on Shuttle. NASA’s job was to ensure that NASA was happy that Spacehab was safe. Spacehab’s job was to ensure that each mission could be accomplished. Mission success was not a NASA responsibility.

    Spacehab was considered a Shuttle payload, and therefore the Shuttle safety review panels got to review all aspects of the module and its contents to ensure NASA was satisfied that safety requirements were met. In the case of the commercial Spacehab module, we made certain that the Spacehab engineers, managers and the payload developers were fully apprised of the NASA/Shuttle requirements and standards, and we ensured that the Safety Review Panels were happy they were getting full cooperation and information from Spacehab. Spacehab did not always agree 100% with the NASA requirements, but in all cases we worked out agreements to everyone’s fully understanding and satisfaction.

    Spacehab’s successful, positive and very effective, efficient work during CMAM led to the company/module selection for the subsequent Mir support missions and also led to development of the Spacehab double module.

    Another example; during the Mir missions, for the first time NASA was sending our people and equipment to ride on another country’s spacecraft. We did not completely agree on the safety certification or integration processes and in fact our organizations and many of our working processes were distinctly different.

    We negotiated a series of contracts, agreements, processes, and documents (US/R-001, 002 and 004) that thoroughly documented the requirements and served to integrate the two country’s organizations and processes, and that both sides worked to with great success between 1996 and the end of the NASA-Mir Program.

    NASA built several of the mechanical, electrical and data management systems for the last Mir element, Priroda, and the Russians made significant modifications to accommodate the US systems. Almost all of the US hardware was manufactured on-site at JSC and all hardware was thoroughly tested to meet Shuttle and Proton/Mir requirements. The philosophy was to make the interfaces in the Russian module nearly identical to the interfaces in the Shuttle middeck and the Spacehab module.

    With a series of Shuttle flights planned, and with compatibility between Shuttle, Spacehab and Mir established, we were able to fly payloads from every NASA center, CSA, and ESA.

    The processes were understood and agreed upon well enough that we could go from concept to hardware development to use in orbit, routinely in six months.

    The first COSS computer system is a prime example. It was recognized that the computer system was required in July, 1995, after Norm Thagard’s return from the first long duration US stay on Mir. We got direction to develop the system in August. We immediately laid out the plans and negotiated within JSC for developing the hardware and software. The NASA-Mir Program office funded the effort. JSC Life Sciences managed the COSS Project and Mir and Shuttle/Spacehab integration and operations. JSC Engineering built much of the hardware. JSC Mission Operations was responsible for the software library. The physical work commenced in September; we built a half dozen flight and training units and began development of the software library, which included developing the first US crew training materials designed for use in orbit during long duration missions. We trained Shannon Lucid in Star City in November and conducted a series of acceptance and integration tests with the Russians in November and December 1995. The hardware met all US and Russian safety and certification requirements. The hardware was launched on STS-76 in March, 1996.

    Clear lines of responsibility and thorough familiarity with the NASA organization, processes and requirements were instrumental in ensuring that NASA’s interests, capabilities and requirements met Russian expectations and vice versa and that we could implement successfully on an expedited basis.

  4. As a long-time project manager, I’ve found that communications, or lack thereof, is often the cause of most project problems. Of course, I’ve never shot anyone into space (yet), but the practice of Project Management is, or should be, the same everywhere. That being said, change is hard on most people, but if they can be shown that there are opportunities in change, and helped to find and exploit those opportunities, then change can be very beneficial for both the people and the organization. However, that requires clear, steady, courageous and strong Leadership (the capital “L” is intentional) which is something we as a nation seem to have little of these days.

  5. 3 disasters within a couple of days of the same point of the year. That’s what I call a tight statistical grouping. It is more than co-incidence. Cold weather was a factor.

  6. 3 accidents roughly 20 years apart. I am half convinced its a generational thing. The next generation of engineers, managers and administrators forgets the hard lessons of the past generation. Also is it partly due to the post holidays effect, people let their guard down as 3 accidents have occurred in January and February. No crewed space craft will ever be safe. It may be safe enough but never safe. I seriously doubt that the next generation of rockets and capsules will be that much safer than the Shuttle as past history shows that isnt true. Airliners crash on a regular basis but no one suggests we stop flying airliners. Learn from the mistakes and improve because throughout human history that has always been the case. Same should apply to crewed spaceflight.

  7. All organisations take risk. Government is in a position to take risks that the private sector cannot.

    The private sector comes in ‘for-profit’ and ‘not-for-profit’ varieties. The varieties are not ‘take-risks’ and ‘not-take-risks’. The private sector may be dynamic, but the dynamism often occurs due to risks not being understood.

    The biggest risk taker in the world is President of the US. Who in their right mind would want the job of fighting wars, making peace, being responsible for the economy, health care, the banking crisis, etc.

    The US government takes risks no other organisation can. Congress should think more about that. No other Government has sent people to the moon and won’t any time soon.

    While the Russians have mastered the safe journey to and from the ISS, there are few volunteers to go elsewhere with them.

    When it comes to risks, NASA is one of the best managers there is.

  8. Unfortunately, the “culture” that exists at NASA today exists in most large corporations as well as throughout our nation. It is that of a reductionist approach to solving complex problems. There is a belief that with enough analysis, we can completely understand and predict the dynamics of a system (risk equals zero). This possibility has been mathematically disproven through chaos and systems theories.

    In many cases, today, our ability to “rationally analyze” problems has become the reason for the stalemates and lack of progress seen in most organizations. There is a belief that pervades most industrial and social cirlces today that problems can be broken down into their simplest elements, analyzed, and put together to reveal the true dynamics of systems. This, however, is not the case. Most systems are too chaotic or complex to be analyzed this way.

    The primitive approach of trial and error that helped organisms evlove for most of evolutionary history and taught them how systems work and where the points of influence existed in each one and how to survive has in today’s rational society gone out the window. It was through this process that organisms truly “learned” and kept them from repeating mistakes. It is in understanding those points of influence and how the system behaves that allowed human beings to evolve forward and become “masters” of their environments.

    It is obviously no small task, but unless you can reteach the organization how to learn again, the same culture will continue to fuel itself. You don’t have to focus on “taking more risk with spaceflight”, but there are thousands of decisions made at NASA every day that don’t have a direct impact on the safety of flight systems, and if you can get people to learn by trial and error through some of those decisions(without attaining the “perception of zero risk” first), then at some point, momentum will lead to more innovative (and not necessarily more risky) thinking in all areas (including spaceflight) as the culture changes.

    Good Luck – I wish you the best!

  9. “But if American astronauts are to ride to the international space station on a rocketship that NASA did not build, there will have to be a tectonic shift in NASA culture.”

    Funny, NASA seems perfectly able to do this with the Russians with whom they have no control but not American companies that are designing to NASA’s standards. Sorry, this doesn’t make sense.

  10. I agree with especially the last paragraph but not re your statements about putting our people on other than NASA launchers. You seem to forget we put them frequently on Russian launchers. NASA does not have configuration control of the Russian launchers and I doubt if we even now are informed of all changes before our people fly. If we do that is a great step forward. I also doubt we still have oversight or even indepth insight of the Russian launcher design or manufacturing quality processes. That said I would prefer to put our people on US manufactured launchers–commercial or DOD sponsored like EELVs–than to continue to fly them on Russian systems because I believe we will have better access to the design and manufacturing data. Allowing a foreign nation to control out human access to space on a trust me basis seems to me to be insane just as it would be insane to trust a US commercial vehicle on the same basis.

  11. Looks to me like a new breed of lawyer will be created. One that will sue the pants off “Boeing” or “Lockheed” or whomever the new contractor gets the job.

    Mr. Hale… I’m afraid you live in a world that no longer exists. A world before Star Trek, Star Wars, Avatar. Hollywood is what’s wrong with the space program. Everyone expects NASA to build a small quick plane that can take off and then enter warp 10 in the blink of an eye.

  12. Dear Wayne,

    Well, there will have to be a cultural change at NASA, and its usual contractors and government sponsors as well. The issue of safety is one but not all. I see this as a structural, intrinsic problem of how we perform in the HSF realm. For many years after Shuttle first flew there have been several programs for its replacement and none of them succeeded for a reason or another. Today: Ares/Orion is doomed for yet another failure. Worse: The choice for Constellation was based on vehicles we were all supposed to know in and out – the SRB, Shuttle and Apollo. Odd isn’t it? All the ingredients were gathered, supposedly, for a first flight in 2012, and even possibly in 2011. Where are we today? Why did NASA fail? Some argue it is the budget, some it is the technical or management incompetence. So what is it? Why should we believe that the next program will be right this time: Yes another chance please! Well it does not work that way or at least it should not. I will argue that NASA is not the sole party responsible for this fiasco. The overseers should have detected the problems early on and I mean the WH and Congress. So today someone wants to try the private sector but that is not all that is meant. It also means COTS-type contracts, not cost-plus ones. It means to try a “new” way for doing things. Some argue that “private” space is not safe and that Ares would be. Based on what? Why is Ares I so much safer than any other rocket? Where is the data to support this argument? See, NASA is slowly but surely losing its credibility, yet it is populated with exceptional engineers and scientists. So again what is it? I am sure if someone figures why this is happening then NASA will eventually be back, stronger and meaner than ever before. In the mean time we as a people have to give a chance to an alternative if we want HSF to survive or it’ll be lost soon for many decades to come. Is it possible the “privates” fail? Sure it is, but what is the cost comparison? Does it not favor “new” space over “old” space? How many times can the private sector try if it were given $9 billions over 5 years?

    Good luck!

    Respectfully.

  13. NASA is plagued with the “not invented here” syndrom. The fear of “commercial” space is unfounded if we consider the fact that the employees of these companies used to be contractors or civil servants of NASA. They carry the same knowledge as the rest of the industry.

    These commercial companies have the luxury of not only carrying forward the harsh technical lessons learned, but they also have the opportunity to revisit the organizational lessons learned and develop processes and procedures that provide the same scrutiny without the bureacracy.

    Too many people forget that bureacracy is an inefficient implementation of process improvement.

  14. Not to be argumentative, but NASA has been “flying its people on someone eles’s rocket” for nearly fifteen years now–since Norm Thaggard’s 1995 flight to Mir on a Soyuz. So what is perhaps most strking is the continued pervasiveness of the “not invented here” mentality in 2010.

    I’m going to sound mean–I don’t want to, but perhaps there’s no way around it–NASA has spent nearly my entire lifetime on a series of bad decisions. In particular, NASA “bet the farm” twice on manned spaceflight systems that turned out to be very poor value: Shuttle (monstrously expensive, lacking in capability, disappointing on safety, and an utter failure in terms of its stated goals) and ISS (scarcely capable of maintaining itself, much less returning science…and that science, again, largely of the “looking at stars, peeing in jars” variety). ISS, in particular, is incapable of undertaking or supporting any activity that deserves to be called “exploration” in the 21st centruy.

    Plainly, this can’t continue. And, in the current political and economic culture, I just don’t know how much willingness there is to give NASA a big pot of money and let them run with it.

  15. (I’m hoping this doesn’t get double-posted – the website gave me an error the first time…)

    Wayne has hit the nail on the head again.

    I totally agree with the previous comments about purchasing seats on Russian craft. Why is this different from purchasing seats on American-made corporate craft? Only because it’s not been done before. I desperately hope that changes.
    Additionally there are comments about risk-averse cultures in corporate America but specifically in comment 12 (anon poster) about reductionist analysis and approaches. Not in my experience. I’ve been building spacecraft for 12 years, and have NEVER seen this.
    The ’emergent behavior’ of systems as complex as even the simplest satellite I’ve worked on (LCROSS) was taken into consideration from the earliest discussions. And LCROSS was done on time and on budget and was a spectacular success. THIS is the kind of approach that needs to be taken, and cross-generational engineering groups are key to making that happen. We had people who worked on Apollo, Shuttle, BIG DOD satellites, little NASA and commercial satellites, guys back to work post-retirement and new college grads all working together, shoulder-to-shoulder motivated by a common goal: THE MOON.

    And a little bit of showing people that it could be done when many believed we’d fail.

    Space is HARD. The euphemism “rocket science” is accurate. Risks need to be taken, but they need to be deliberately evaluated and decided on. You have to take that bull by the horns, look him square in the eye and tell him every day “Not on my watch”. We can’t be cavalier and arrogant, but we can’t be a patsy either.

    Follow me on Twitter: @VAXHeadroom

  16. Wayne,

    You probably did more to propagate the dysfunctional culture at NASA as any one man could possibly hope to do. Your relentless purge of dissenting employees and refusal to admit and correct mistakes with the JSC culture could be bound in volumes and studied and taught by behavioral scientists, cognitive scientists and group decision theory experts for years to come. Your pompous, holier than thou blogs, e-mails, etc. seem to come from on high. What you fail to see is that you and others of your ilk are the problem and have been the problem which can be traced to the cause of the two accidents we have experienced at NASA. Your numerous outbursts at high-level meetings and abusive behavior to people who disagreed with your view of the world or the safety of the Shuttle and its crew is unconscionable.

    NASA JSC is in still on its first step of a 12-step recovery program; it is still in denial.

    Accepting risk is understood; accepting unnecessary risk which can and should be avoided easily to meet schedule and cost constraints is not wise or prudent.

    Get a clue, your “Epiphany” post Columbia was a sham and you of all people should not be the voice for culture change at NASA.

  17. Wayne,

    Great article, well written. But here are a few more thoughts from a guy that started the same time as you at JSC in the 70s….

    My recollection of the engineers from Apollo is that they concentrated on getting to the Moon with little thought about the cost to do so. When is the last time we did that? In their world, things like earned value, full cost accounting, etc didn’t exist. Year long POP (PPBE) cycles didn’t exist. They also didn’t spend their time performing periodic (and essentially meaningless) training for HazMat, records management, No Fear Act, Environmental responsiblities, and list goes on and on.

    Today even at the lowest managemement levels, we spend 90% of our time addressing cost issues, not technical ones. New NASA programs live in an abstract world where we constantly trade architecture options against each other for cost: life cycle, recurring, maybe just FY10 and FY11 limitations, etc. We won’t succeed because we can’t afford to jump back into the real world and actually get it to happen with the limited money available.

    Can you imagine a NASA world where we all spend 90% of our time doing technical work? Can you imagine a world where you go to work, hold a meeting, decide to buy something and test it next month? Shedding ourselves of the fiscal and bureaucratic constraints. What a wonderful world that would be. As engineers, we all tend to be pretty dang fiscally conservative anyway. I even re-use my brown bags for lunch. If only we could live in the world that Apollo was allowed to flurish in. I would eat baloney sandwiches if I could get us out of low earth orbit once again.

    There really is only one fix for NASA : don’t follow the water. Follow the money (or lack therof). Get at least 90% of us doing techincal work 90% of our time again.

  18. Dr. Hale,

    I believe strongly that the final paragraph, to the STS staff, is correct. However, with all due respect, what I see here continues to reflect a disconnect in the way that NASA has come to view safety over the past several decades–the fact that all risk, including to humans, is not created equal. That is, the difference between calculated and engineered risk. Take the difference between Challenger, and Apollo 1 (you can see the discontinuity there).

    Apollo 1 was an example of calculated risk gone wrong. There was a great deal of uncertainty in the design of the capsule, including the hatch, the environmental system, the fabric-like materials and the electrical system. It was cutting edge. There was always a palpable probability that something would fail. It did, and three American astronauts–good men–died as a result. NASA calculated the odds of success, rolled the dice and eventually they came up snake-eyes. When you take risks, ultimately you can’t fight statistics. That doesn’t mean the risk is less worthy.

    In the case of Challenger, risk was engineered into the technical design, the management process, the LCC, the VAB stacking procedure… the list goes on. Not only were the risks known, they weren’t officially accepted (and managed). They were neglected. The shuttle design itself was the result of a bureaucratic nightmare and the compromise nobody liked. It was flawed by design, and flown on the idea that a sufficiently complex bureaucracy could mitigate those flaws. Combined with a vastly reduced launch rate, and pressure for those few to be successful, the recipe for disaster was set. It was only a matter of time.

    The difference between these two approaches to risk doesn’t take a rocket scientist to appreciate. That’s why people believe NASA is risk averse: because what the Agency has adopted as its course over time just *is*. The only thing that separates the public’s perception of that, from those of us in the industry, is that we can do the math.

  19. Wayne,

    The reality is that private aerospace contractors built ALL the United States human rated rockets currently used and used in the past….they just did not design them exclusively by themselves. The entire history of Human Space Flight is based on the NASA partnership with private aerospace contractor (with stocks and board of directors). It is this design culture that needs to change not all of NASA. A new kind of partnership needs to be established that allows for the private industry to construct the rocket to specifications of reliability and safety that NASA requires. The vehicle that the crew will ride in at first should be built as in the past…designed by a NASA\private contractor partnership….to evolve into privately designed vehicles that NASA purchases rides on like the Russian Soyuz rocket\vehicle combination that is built by a private Russian corporation (RSC-Energia). Why is this a huge paradign shift? We’re already doing almost all of it already?

  20. “if American astronauts are to ride to the international space station on a rocketship that NASA did not build” That’s happening on a regular basis. Can you say SOYUZ?

  21. this has nothing to do with your discussions i went to an estate sale and bought a small package of autograped photos got home and theres alot more than i thought i thought someone might better appreciate them there sts 6 sts 7 and so on judy resnick bluford mcnair i have one of crippen and john young anyways quite a few more sts2 sts 5 anyways, anyone interested let me know i love nasa and you guys are very interesting

  22. NASA has just been taken out of the human space exploration business. We will not have a NASA manned launch vehicle within the next decade. We are diluting the funds over 7 businesses that should be going to 2 or 3 at most. Spreading them over 7 is just wasting money and time. I believe Ares 1 should be taken off the drawing board but NASA should be allowed to develop an Ares V type launch vehicle and go ahead with the Orion capsule design.
    Let’s hope the 7 private companies can come up with a safe design in the next few years. Space X will be launching the Dragon cargo vehicles this year and with modification the Dragon can be man rated. That is if NASA can give their design the go ahead.
    Now that we are committed to commercial cargo and manned flights, NASA must decide which system to go with and proceed. It’s time to make hard decisions. To paraphrase an old expression, it’s time to go or get off the pot!
    My vote is for Space X, they have a system ready for cargo flights to ISS and with the proper funding they can have a man rated craft the soonest. All the other contenders are too far behind to be ready within the next few years.

  23. NASA is plagued with the “not invented here” syndrom. The fear of “commercial” space is unfounded if we consider the fact that the employees of these companies used to be contractors or civil servants of NASA. They carry the same knowledge as the rest of the industry.

    These commercial companies have the luxury of not only carrying forward the harsh technical lessons learned, but they also have the opportunity to revisit the organizational lessons learned and develop processes and procedures that provide the same scrutiny without the bureacracy.

    Too many people forget that bureacracy is an inefficient implementation of process improvement

  24. I have a very hard time resolving claims of NASA’s risk averse culture with what the Challenger Accident Investigation Board found – a tendency for NASA to normalize risk. It seems that depending on who’s talking, NASA is either too risky, or not risky enough. The folks I know are constantly asking themselves how much risk is too much. It’s a difficult tightrope & I think they deserve a little credit for walking it every day.

Comments are closed.