NASA defends failures
- By Paula Shaki Trimble
- Mar 19, 2000
NASA Administrator Dan Goldin said he blames himself for failures that may
have resulted from his trademark "faster, better, cheaper" approach.
He called failures such as the loss of two Mars exploration spacecraft
in 1999 "acceptable," but said he is at fault for not setting parameters
for faster, better, cheaper and not explaining "failure."
"Good people were violating good common sense," Goldin told a House appropriations
subcommittee March 15. During a hearing to defend the space agency's 2001
budget request, Goldin responded to criticism that faster, better, cheaper,
which involves cutting-edge information technology, may not always be the
best method. Two reports released March 13 call on NASA to keep the philosophy
but strengthen the people, processes and technology used to carry it out.
When problems arise, such as the miscommunication that caused the loss of
the Mars Climate Orbiter or the project management and software problems
that may have led to the loss of the Mars Polar Lander, the agency should
allocate more resources, reduce requirements or cancel the program, Goldin
said. "Faster, better, cheaper is sound.... [But] I've pushed the limits,
and now we need to back off."
"The fact that we pushed the limits and had some failures is OK," Goldin
told the subcommittee on Veterans Affairs, Housing and Urban Development,
and Independent Agencies. "Now we need to teach people how to manage cost
An independent assessment of the Mars mishaps will be released this month.
An independent evaluation of recent safety problems on the space shuttle
was released March 9.
In response to agency and independent reports, Goldin has appointed
NASA chief engineer Brian Keegan to integrate the findings and deliver a
plan to change NASA's operating procedures. Those recommendations are expected
Rep. Alan Mollohan (D-W.Va.) noted that the loss of both Mars spacecraft
was partially attributed to failures in software and spacecraft validation.
NASA plans to integrate its NASA Ames Research Center Software Independent
Validation and Verification Facility in Fairmont, W.Va., with the rest of
its programs, Goldin said.
NASA's 2001 request includes an extra $350 million for Mars exploration.