Part 1: A Cultural Change at NASA?

Part 1 of 2. A serious misconception has developed in recent months in the public, media and NASA regarding the Columbia Accident Investigation Board’s criticisms of NASA’s management.

Worse, that such a mistaken assumption about the CAIB report’s conclusions could persist both inside and outside NASA as it attempts to return the space shuttle to flight bodes ill for future space projects.

The problem centers on the overused phrase “broken safety culture,” as if that statement summarizes accurately the CAIB’s negative assessment of the agency.
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NASA Impeded by Science Lobby

Many scientists have complained about the Bush administration’s gutting of research funding, but a careful analysis of NASA’s fiscal year 2005 budget shows almost half-a-billion dollars earmarked for additional pet science projects.

Ironic, but the successful lobbying effort by scientists to secure those projects actually sabotaged other, potentially more valuable, research.
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Spacefaring by Bureaucrats

After more than a year of preparation, NASA has formally released its request for proposals – the detailed specifications for contractors to follow – bidding on the right to build the Crew Exploration Vehicle, the spacecraft the agency plans to use to explore the solar system in the coming decades.

A close look at that RFP, however, raises questions about whether the resulting effort will produce a spacecraft capable of achieving NASA’s exploration goals or another failed project, costing a fortune and producing nothing except blueprints.
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Going to Mars in Earth Orbit

Many Americans have questioned repeatedly the usefulness of the International Space Station, but it stands as NASA’s only gateway at the moment to the rest of the solar system. Without the station — or something comparable — it will be difficult if not impossible for U.S. engineers and scientists to do the research necessary to make interplanetary travel possible.
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Backing a Bad Hubble Decision

NASA officials have claimed they performed a risk analysis before deciding to cancel the last space-shuttle servicing mission to the Hubble Space Telescope, but no such analysis was ever done.

Worse, sources told UPI’s Space Watch that NASA also has ignored at least one proposal to reduce the risk of sending a shuttle crew to Hubble – in order to justify its decision.
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