2 thoughts on “NASA Safety”

  1. Parts of the article don’t match with my impressions.

    Sometimes NASA “got carried away” and tried to break from this cautious approach. This, Hickam notes, is where some of the biggest issues came up. In particular, he cites the 1986 Space Shuttle Challenger disaster that killed seven crew members.

    I don’t think it was a “throw caution to the wind and press the button” attitude with Challenger or Columbia. It was a deeper problem of large teams ignoring warning signs, normalizing anomalies, etc. But as you dig deeper, you get into a host of other organizational and engineering issues going back to the start of the Shuttle program, from unrealistic expectations, coping with unanticipated complexity by adding more complexity, the lack of sufficient design iterations, out-of-the-box thinking, stepping back to look at the system as a whole, and trying to manage a program that was a pork-laden leviathan. You could go on for days about it.

    It’s not that Elon goes fast and blows things up, it’s that he’s so open to major redesigns and rethinks because he’s not dedicated to a final design and then grafting on enough kludges so that it can work, just barely. He’s willing to try a path, see if it looks promising, and abandoning it if it doesn’t pan out. He’s willing to avoid paths that are going to be expensive and complicated instead of powering through by throwing money at problems that shouldn’t have been designed in, such as [ insert list of about a hundred long-standing operational issues with the Shuttle ].

    It’s like SpaceX is trying to apply the Euler-Lagrange equation to find the shortest path to the lowest cost, highest-performance, highest-flight-rate launch system by finding and mapping the partial derivatives of decisions with respect to cost, quality, and schedule. Of course their detractors would probably say they’re using a random walk.

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