Sunday, December 11, 2005

Why the different treatment when other National Labs Fails?

Submitted by Anonymous:
__________________________________

Doug, I thought about posting this as a comment, but think it might be
worthy of its own posting. What do you think?

============================
Interesting difference....

When NASA's contractor run lab - JPL - lost $100 millions in two doomed
unmanned missions to Mars several years ago ... I don't recall Congress,
GAO, POGO, or the media asking for Caltech to be replace as the manager and
operator of JPL or force the contract for JPL to go out to bid... so I
looked up an old news story on Space.com about how blame was handled....

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Space.com
Goldin Accepts Blame for Lost Mars Missions
By Andrew Bridges
Pasadena BureauChief

29 March 2000

PASADENA, Calif. -- NASA Administrator Daniel Goldin said Wednesday he
accepts the blame for the loss of the Mars Climate Orbiter and Mars Polar
Lander spacecraft, saying he had asked the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL)
to do the impossible.

"I asked these people to do incredibly tough things, to push the limits,"
Goldin said in comments to reporters after addressing employees at the
Pasadena facility.

"We were successful and I asked them to push harder. We were successful and
I asked them to push harder and we hit a boundary. And I told them that they
should not apologize. They did terrific things and I pushed it too hard. And
that's why I feel responsible."

Goldins talk came in the wake of two reports released Tuesday that were
sharply critical of how NASA ran its two Mars 98 missions, both of which
failed late last year.

"We put them in a box there was no way out of, really," said John Casani, a
JPL veteran who spearheaded the inquiry into the loss of the Polar Lander
and its companion microprobes, Deep Space 2.

A second report, authored by Thomas Young, looked instead at NASAs overall
Mars program. The report took NASA, JPL and industrial partner Lockheed
Martin Astronautics to task for running a program that was under-funded,
understaffed, overworked and that ran unacceptable risks.

"In my efforts to empower people I pushed too hard and, in doing so,
stretched the system too thin," Goldin told JPL employees gathered in von
Karman Auditorium. "It may have made some failure inevitable."

"We were successful and I asked them to push harder. We were successful and
I asked them to push harder and we hit a boundary. And I told them that they
should not apologize. They did terrific things and I pushed it too hard. And
that's why I feel responsible."

But, Goldin said, he would not seek a NASA response that was punitive,
prescriptive or that would seek to micromanage affairs at JPL or at
Lockheed.

JPL is federally funded and owned by NASA but, unlike other NASA centers, is
managed by the California Institute of Technology, a private university. It
is responsible for the lions share of NASA's deep space missions -- a role
it has had since the Mariner 1 mission in 1962, its first attempt at a
planetary spacecraft.

"When you have brilliant minds like you have at JPL, what you say is, Here
is the problem, here is the challenge and I leave it to you to define it,"
Goldin said, essentially asking JPL to be its own "doctor" in analyzing its
Mars program. Goldin added that the program should culminate in the landing
of astronauts on the Red Planet.

David Baltimore, Caltech's president and a Nobel laureate in physiology and
medicine, told JPL employees not to become complacent about risk, nor to
lose their sense of audacity.

"One day we will look back on the Young report as a healthy midcourse
correction in an exciting program of exploration," Baltimore said.

Comments:
JPL doesn't have a handy-dandy logo: The Mushroom Cloud. LANL's got it trademarked. Hence, a Congressman can get a 10-second sound bite, like, for example:

"I am positively HORRIFIED that atomic secrets have leaked out of Los Alamos National Laboratory, THE BIRTHPLACE OF THE ATOMIC BOMB."

Try subsituting "Livermore" (where?!) or "Sandia" (is that in America?) or "JPL" (rocket science?). It just doesn't have that 'sting.'
 
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