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NASA: Psyche asteroid mission now targeting October ’23 launch

A report [pdf] from NASA on the steps taken by JPL to get the Psyche asteroid mission back on track after it failed to meet its launch date last fall says those steps are working, and the spacecraft should now succeed in meeting its new October ’23 launch date.

Both the report and today’s press release are filled with vague PR blather interspersed with complementing JPL for addressing the issues, including hiring about a dozen more people to get the main software issue that had prevented last year’s launch solved. I noticed one point however that was not mentioned clearly in the press release nor had been made clear in the earlier investigation report that today’s newly released report labels as “COVID-19 Related” issues.

The return to majority in-person work has made a tremendous difference in restoring visibility and informal communications across the project. Drop-in meetings, social coffee hours, off-site intensives, and individuals “walking the floor” have improved team interaction, problem-solving, efficiency, and trust. The team is also making judicious use of remote and hybrid access options as appropriate to ensure flexibility while not compromising their collaboration.

In other words, the panic over Wuhan had so restricted in-person contact at JPL that it had hampered the project’s development. Based on the vague language used to describe almost everything else mentioned in this new report, it appears that this issue more than anything else contributed the launch delay. Not surprisingly, no one at NASA, JPL, Caltech, or in the government wishes to make this admission bluntly. It would illustrate once again the foolishness of the lockdown policies imposed during the panic by the government and academia.

Genesis cover

On Christmas Eve 1968 three Americans became the first humans to visit another world. What they did to celebrate was unexpected and profound, and will be remembered throughout all human history. Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8, Robert Zimmerman's classic history of humanity's first journey to another world, tells that story, and it is now available as both an ebook and an audiobook, both with a foreword by Valerie Anders and a new introduction by Robert Zimmerman.

The ebook is available everywhere for $5.99 (before discount) at amazon, or direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit. If you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and the author gets a bigger cut much sooner.

The audiobook is also available at all these vendors, and is also free with a 30-day trial membership to Audible.

"Not simply about one mission, [Genesis] is also the history of America's quest for the moon... Zimmerman has done a masterful job of tying disparate events together into a solid account of one of America's greatest human triumphs."--San Antonio Express-News


  • Col Beausabre


    The tendency towards irreducible number of errors –
    The author makes the observation that in a suitably complex system there is a certain irreducible number of errors. Any attempt to fix observed errors tends to result in the introduction of other errors.

    The Mythical Man-Month: Essays on Software Engineering is a book on software engineering and project management by Fred Brooks first published in 1975, with subsequent editions in 1982 and 1995. Its central theme is that adding manpower to a software project that is behind schedule delays it even longer. This idea is known as Brooks’s law, and is presented along with the second-system effect and advocacy of prototyping.

    Brooks’s observations are based on his experiences at IBM while managing the development of OS/360. He had added more programmers to a project falling behind schedule, a decision that he would later conclude had, counter-intuitively, delayed the project even further. He also made the mistake of asserting that one project—involved in writing an ALGOL compiler—would require six months, regardless of the number of workers involved (it required longer). The tendency for managers to repeat such errors in project development led Brooks to quip that his book is called “The Bible of Software Engineering”, because “everybody quotes it, some people read it, and a few people go by it”

    And the classic on measuring progress by man months – “You don’t assemble nine women in a conference room and tell them they have a month to come up with a baby”

  • Ray Van Dune

    The jack of all trades, Falcon Heavy will still deliver the probe, although it will arrive at Psyche three years late. Due to launching a year late, the transit time will be 2023-2029 instead of 2022-2026. Orbital mechanics is unforgiving.

  • Concerned

    JPL–smack middle in the congressional district of the ubiquitous Rep. Adam Schiff.
    A large majority of the geniuses working there undoubtedly voted for that fine representative of the people.
    It’s apparent JPL’s best days are now firmly behind them.

  • Concerned wrote, “JPL–smack middle in the congressional district of the ubiquitous Rep. Adam Schiff.”

    Now that is a fact I was totally unaware of, which certainly provides a bit of important context. Though it shouldn’t be surprising, because our intellectual class today are almost routinely Democrat, almost brainlessly.

  • Col Beausabre

    Orbital mechanics is unforgiving. – Not if you get a good one

  • Col Beausabre: thanks for the reminder of the wonderful and brilliant Fred Brooks. His experience and wisdom are sadly missed.

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