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Columbia's Fate a Management Problem?

Discussion in 'Issues Around the World' started by Coot, Feb 1, 2003.

  1. Coot

    Coot Passed Away January 7, 2010

    While the disaster is fresh and many folks nerves are on edge, the question needs to be asked. Did politics and budgetary constraints factor into this disaster? The linked article is the Guardian, but the subject of the article and most of the quotes are from a NASA mission planner.

    Story Here.

    Did NASA shoot themselves in the foot on this one by forcing safety issues to the background? I'd be very interested in Mike's input as he has alluded to the idea that something has been amiss in this area.
  2. FrankF

    FrankF #55170-054

    You know what's really scary?... All of the s**t that happens in engineering and manufacturing that management never sees or hears about.
  3. Biker

    Biker Administrator Staff Member

    Safety and training are always two areas that take the hit on budget issues. Sadly, it's even more so in the government. Add the fact that results are more important than getting those results in a safe manner and you have a recipe for disaster. The article doesn't surprise me in the least.

    Edit - Just found <a href="http://www.msnbc.com/news/867623.asp?0cv=CB10&cp1=1" target="blank">this article</a> on MSNBC, too.
  4. Sierra Mike

    Sierra Mike The Dude Abides Staff Member

    You know, this talk of an ejection system has me wondering...obviously, ejection seats are completely unusable at Mach 18+, as well as a "lifeboat" kind of construct--after all, there wouldn't be enough time to get to it. But an ejection module like what the F-111 has might be the route to go.

    Have no idea how much that would affect gross weight performance, though.

  5. mike

    mike mesmerized

    I am not quite sure how to answer this, or where to start. I would guess that right now some mis-managers are thinking back that they should have returned -102 to horizontal after discovering the crack in -103--however, they inspected 104 and 105's and found no anomalies in that area.

    I will let you guys in on one insight of ours-102 was the vehicle we wanted retired and put in a museum. It was the first vehicle we built. During the OMM at Palmdale, it was not completed in time as we found many many discrepancies in/on her. Wiring was in terrible shape-we went over budget and over time limits. We had no choice. We did our best in Palmdale, and sent back -102 to KSC partially incomplete (on the work side)....I then was picked up and sent to KSC. A lot of work was undone at KSC in the TPS side, citing bad bonds, failing BV's and "pull tests", etc. They went over the shuttle with a fine toothed comb in an effort to win the OMM work over to KSC...which they/we did. However, the work force in Palmdale consisted of people who built the shuttle--KSC is a processing turnaround facility...NASA required that they hired some Palmdale people to help with OMM as we know the shuttle, all the way through.

    The shuttles were rated for 100 flights each, but the wiring is warranted for only 20 years. NASA is very cautious as we are as well-we work together and you'd be surprised how careful we are. You cannot do a single thing to the orbiter without paper authorizing it and if it is something for flight, we have USA and NASA QC to buy the work--right down to every fastener. The cracks we found in the fuel flow liners? Special training was set up and a very small crew designated in which we polished out and repaired the cracks...
    That speaks for us.

    I cannot speak for or against upper management--sometimes I have no clue as to why they make some of their decisions.

    If the disaster is related to the initial tile damage from launch, then there really is nothing we could have done, I think. Tile repair simply cannot be done in space, and I do not think it ever will be with current technology.
    If it occured from the inside of the vehicle-then there is no telling. Once we have a good idea what started the disaster, then we can trace to the root of the blame--and assign it.
    Another thing that bothered me was the revelation that several sensory readings went offscale low, and that they were not tied to the same avionics (black box) box--that starts to tell me, well, how do I put it, that they were destroyed by then. Also the revelations that the left wing was the starting area for the disaster still tells me that we need to look at the launch incident.

    Another thing that needs to be brought to the public light is the treatment of the tile workers at KSC. At Palmdale, most everyone was treated and paid the same, from tile to electrical to structural mechanics. At KSC, the bottom is the tile guys/gals, who get paid terribly and are treated like airplane washers, then come the electricians, then the orbiter vehicle mechanics, and then most notably the AFT mechanics. A lot of TPS people that had been there for years were pissed to find out I was brought in well above their top wage, although I was an aft orb veh mechanic--it just wasn't fair to them they thought. I said they were right-in fact, all of us from Palmdale told the TPS guys that we should all be on the same scale. The TPS people are what keeps the orbiter and her crew from burning up every time during reentry.

    However, the budget is a problem at KSC.....I'll relate more on it later.
  6. nitewriter

    nitewriter To Perceive Is To Suffer

    We will never launch when it is unsafe, Fred Gregory, then NASAs director of space flight, promised the House science and space subcommittee nine months ago.

    While none of those who issued warnings pointed specifically to a defect immediately known to be implicated in yesterdays disaster, they warned repeatedly that safety was losing the battle for scarce NASA funds. The programs 40 percent budget decline over the past decade had undermined its ability to guarantee flawless performances, they said.

    NASAs response was mostly to say it disagreed: The problems were not that bad; safety was still the top priority; and the number of shuttle anomalies or defects was dropping fast. NASA will continue to ensure that an adequate staff and shuttle workforce is available to maintain a perfect record, Gregory promised.


    I had no idea that the budget cuts at NASA had been so drastic, 40%.
    How can NASA maintain as high a level of safety as they claim with such major financial cuts.
    And the comment about adequate staff, when your talking about something like space travel, is adequate really good enough.
  7. mike

    mike mesmerized


    edit to go ahead and see if I can put foot in mouth and speculate:
    from CNN:
    "On the most recent, fatal flight, NASA technicians reviewing video noticed that a number of heat insulation tiles seemed to have fallen off from one of the wings during the shuttle's eight-minute race to orbit. "

    If that is the case-there is the cause of the disaster. Nothing we could have done, save for aborting flight for the first time ever and return to earth before breaching the atmosphere.
  8. Sierra Mike

    Sierra Mike The Dude Abides Staff Member

    That's what I figure; no one could make the call quick enough anyway. By the time photoanalysis was done, the vehicle would already by sliding into the slot in orbit.

  9. ethics

    ethics Pomp-Dumpster Staff Member

    Some more great stuff there, Mike, thanks for sharing. :)
  10. midranger4

    midranger4 Banned


    First I wish to thank you for the insight on this tragedy. I am sure the loss of Columbia is that much more a bitter pill for you.

    I don't pretend to be a NASA scientist but I do have some thoughts on this and I hope you will help to understand some things.

    The debris that struck the left wing of the shuttle on launch seems to become quite the focal point.

    Statements from NASA seem to indicate that they were unable to determine what, if any damage, the debris caused when it struck the orbiter. They attempted to get some pictures while the shuttle was in orbit but the quality inhibited NASA from being able to determine if their was in fact damage.

    If this was the case I am wondering why they would chance a return to the surface without being absolutely sure this was not an issue.

    In theory could NASA have docked the shuttle at the space station and investigated further?

    Is their a contigency NASA plan to abandon a shuttle in orbit? What I'm asking is could NASA potentially send up a second shuttle to evacuate a distressted orbiter and then abandon it?
  11. Violet1966

    Violet1966 Stand and Deliver Staff Member

    Mike I heard this yesterday and it seems to be the logical cause of what happened. You'd know better then anyone and when I heard that it was tile related...I immediately thought of you. Well can you please explain to us why they can't be repaired in space? Are they working to change this? Is this the matter of having to be done at a space station and it couldn't reach it, like you had already stated in another thread? Do the tiles not adhere because of the lack of atmosphere or something? Why is it such a tough thing to do more or less, is what I'm asking. Hope this doesn't sound like a stupid question but I can't understand why they would send these shuttles up there, knowing that tiles being lost is almost a given. Don't they lose tiles all the time? I thought I read that or heard it somewhere. :huh:
  12. mike

    mike mesmerized

    OK-tile repair cannot be done in space-there is a vacuum that exists which would cure the repair RTV before it even gets mixed-not to mention that heat is needed to be continually applied to the tile to repair it-and a spacewalk would only further damage the tile---they really are as fragile or more fragile than eggshells in the sense of impact......trust me, I know.

    I will put this in a way so I stay out of trouble: Does anyone here really believe that no sat imagery was done while she was up there? None as Mr. Dittmore has stated?

    This orbiter was destined to sooner or later have ISS docking capability, much due to us lightening it up. Remember, it was the first one built, so it is heavy, and the entire upper wing surface is tiled, whereas the others have much more FRSI instead.

    Another shuttle doing a rescue?? Extremely unlikely....too many details to list.
  13. FrankF

    FrankF #55170-054

    You mean the classified photos that don't exist that were not taken by a classified satellite that also does not exist?
  14. mike

    mike mesmerized

    One could say that....
  15. mike

    mike mesmerized

    Either later on tonight or tomorrow a.m. I will post a rant on the budget that we suffer by. Coot, if you have something you are interesting in knowing more about, let me know and I will include my thoughts and/or knowledge on it.
  16. Coot

    Coot Passed Away January 7, 2010

    Mike, has there been much R&D spending in the way of improved heat shielding? Also, I'd be curious to know if the extended maintenance periods are just to refurb or if there are new technologies put into systems to insure more safety, better telemetry etc.
  17. Advocat

    Advocat Viral Memes a Speciality Staff Member

    "After an expert NASA panel warned last year that safety troubles loomed for the fleet of shuttles if the space agency's budget was not increased, NASA removed five of its nine members and two of its consultants. Some of them now say the agency was trying to suppress their criticisms. "

    Experts fired after questioning safety

    From this article, it sounds like budget cuts took the biggest bite from safety issues, to the point where some known issues were put off because they'd be too expensive to fix.
  18. Misu

    Misu Hey, I saw that.

    Budget cuts is what caused my husband's project to get cancelled (widely publicized in the news). It's also what has caused the majority of SKILLED computer programmers to have been LAID OFF from their jobs. It's what has delayed the updating of crucial systems (both hardware and software).

    That Dittemore guy was hired solely to cut costs wherever he could. He's been ordered to straight from Washington.

    The space program is NOT a frivalous program like Bush said it was I believe back in 2001, when the new shuttle program was cancelled. Although our current fleet was designed for multiple trips, it was not designed to fly so frequently. It was not designed to carry payload after payload after payload to the Int'l Space station - it was designed to be a lab. Over the last 4 years, there have been shuttle launches almost ever 3 months - that's 4 a year. Living 20 minutes from Nasa for 2 years, I saw so many launches that I just stopped going to them - they got to be routine, even though now we realize just how extraordinary each launch and landing really is.

    I will say one thing for Nasa employees, though - the fact that the budget was cut doesn't mean that employees suddenly got lazy. But it's mind-boggling the types of systems that are involved in the shuttle. Because of budget cuts, staff has been cut. And remaining employees try to do the best they can - but they cannot do it all. The quality of their work is unmatched by any other field, and you speak to ANY ONE who works on the space program, you'll realize you're in the presence of someone who takes their job VERY seriously and loves what they do. Nasa is absolutely right in saying budget cuts haven't affected safety quality.
  19. mike

    mike mesmerized

    The quality of work done by us is excellent. Of course the motto is "safety is #1". However, go and request more safety and job-specific certs from your manager, and he'll come back and say that the budget his manager has will not allow it, and besides, they have two people with that cert on that crew on that shift. Many times, that one person is sick and the other is loaned out to another bay or in CA for recovery.......and that job gets held over. Simple basic training was a fight for me--it took a loanout over to Bay 3 which resulted in my acquiring more certs..it should not be the case, but it is.

    Tile is always being researched and engineered--one result is TUFI tile that is being used to replace old tile around the base heatshield, and the dome heatshield.

    For the OMM periods, it is exactly what it is-orbiter maintenance and modifications-Columbia got the MEDS (multi-function electronic display system) or the glass cockpit as it was known. Many tile were replaced, and we searched for evidence of structural corrosion underneath the tile. I do not recall how many hundreds of tile were replaced, but we did a lot to that vehicle. Remember, the basic KSC workforce is comprised of "turnaround" processors, they read from process specs written by our Rockwell (now Boeing) engineers--on the other, we built the vehicles in Palmdale, and the KSC guys that come out during an OMM are amazed to see what the vehicle looks like torn down-now the are trying to do one themselves with -103.

    NASA is very guilty of past cover-ups...why do you think Mr. Dittmore is "forthcoming" with info during these conferences?

    Even with the funding cuts, every single step of the job has to be completed, otherwise the vehicle will not fly.

    Many safety upgrades have been deferred due to budgetary constraints. Until we know what did happen and what the cause was, anything right now is just speculation. But I do believe that nobody in this program is happy with the budget. Perhaps that'll change now.
  20. Misu

    Misu Hey, I saw that.

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