Faster, better, cheaper OK
- By Paula Shaki Trimble
- Mar 13, 2000
Rather than abandon its "faster, better, cheaper" philosophy, NASA must
strengthen the people, processes and technology used to carry it out, according
to two reports released Monday by the space agency.
The reports — "NASA Faster, Better, Cheaper Task Final Report," by the former
Mars Pathfinder project manager, and "Report on Project Management in NASA,"
by the Mars Climate Orbiter Mishap Investigation Board — call on NASA to
* Attracting and training skilled workers.
* Creating strong program management.
* Developing advanced technologies.
* Using new information technologies to minimize the risk of space missions.
The "Faster, Better Cheaper" report suggested that "information technology
can be used to develop and design visualization aids for the front end of
project development. The designers walk around their "virtual spacecraft'
as they design it."
It further suggested that similar technology be used to develop "visualization
domes, which immerse the flight operations team, the press, the public on
the distant planet."
But because no plans exist for such advanced technology, the report recommended
strengthening project management. The report called on NASA to create an
agencywide integrated IT development plan, unifying NASA's Intelligent Synthesis
Environment, Information Technology operations, Intelligent Systems operations
and the Consolidated Super Computing Management Office into one plan.
The report on the Mars Climate Orbiter Mission noted that a project must
be adequately staffed and all roles must be clearly defined. The mission
was designed under NASA Administrator Dan Goldin's faster, better, cheaper
approach, but a project management problem — miscommunication — doomed the
spacecraft's entry into orbit around Mars. The agency and contractor miscommunicated
about the measurement units — English vs. metric — used to calculate the
orbiter's distance from Earth.
Two other assessments of NASA program management practices are being released
this month. A report from the Space Shuttle Independent Assessment Team
was released March 9, and a report from the Mars Independent Assessment
Team is due by the end of the month.