4 thoughts on “Continuing Culture Problems At NASA”

  1. Having worked at NASA, and not been a senior manager, I’m sure not surprised.

    A buddy and me researched and designed a new integrated data display for the mission control that all the main seats in the MCC thought was great and highly important (didn’t even realize a lot of the info was available during flights.). Gene Kratz shut us down and responded with “If you guys have enough free time to do things like this, you should be putting in more free overtime.” real encoraging of inovation.

    On the other hand they jumped at excuses to pad out staff numbers needlessly. They are paid by the number of staff under them.

  2. I liked the video for the most part. Sure, it is sophomoric in delivery, but the points are fairly good. Didn’t like the crack at the military, because the only senior manager I ever saw reliably promote the “servant leadership” concept was General Howell.

    For those who never worked at NASA, or any government program, pause when you get to the NASA process diagram. It should hit anyone what such a process does to efficiency. But if you find yourself wishing the video was clearer, so you can study the diagram… you’re an idiot.

    To protect the not so innocent of today, I’ll note a story from 10 years ago. A couple of engineers had developed a simple Access database to track some records. The NASA customer loved it, because the engineers could actually provide data quickly and efficiency. When the news got out, the contract guys hit the roof. Why? Because these were engineering analyst that created the database, not software engineers. First, the engineers were threatened with losing their jobs if they ever did such work again. Second, they removed Access from all the computers on the basis it was a “software development tool”.

    Although I can’t take credit for the database, the chilling effect of the reprimand was one reason I left for several years.

  3. In a related problem, as far as I can tell, NASA had absolutely no plans to reevaluate their decision to go with the Ares I. Given the problems that have been caused by the first stage, an ATK solid rocket motor, it makes sense to at least hedge one’s bets with the next ESAS LV on the ESAS list that doesn’t use SRMs. The next two choices happen to be the Delta IV Heavy and the Atlas V Heavy. Sure, NASA can’t develop all three LVs at once, but there were relatively low lying fruit present. For example, boosting Delta IV’s second stage performance or “Americanizing” the RD-180.

    Instead, NASA has doubled its bet on the Ares I. This isn’t the kind of culture that will open up space for the US or mankind.

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