NASA airs plans to Congress

The House Science Committee revisited NASA's failed Mars missions during

a hearing Tuesday, placing emphasis on NASA's management of large projects

and its testing of hardware and software.

NASA Administrator Dan Goldin and Ed Stone, director of the Jet Propulsion

Laboratory, outlined new initiatives that are intended to improve the quality

of software, independent verification and validation and software research

and plans to centralize Mars program management.

Stone outlined several reorganizations at JPL, which manages the Mars

program for NASA. The reorganizations are designed to improve personnel

management that led to the failure to catch and report problems with the

Mars Climate Orbiter and Mars Polar Lander. JPL created:

* A Mars program office.

* A directorate for space science flight projects.

* A systems management office for independent assessment of requirements

stability and risk.

* Review teams to identify any remaining risks.

* Core project teams for each mission.

* A mission assurance team to perform independent assessments of policies,

procedures and guidelines.

In addition, NASA plans to require all of its facilities to reach Level

3 of the Carnegie Mellon software Capability Maturity Model.

The committee's chairman, Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-Wis.),

stressed that NASA should not be reinvented but rather should return to

successful models using the faster, better, cheaper philosophy that have

proven successful in the past, such as the Mars Pathfinder and Clementine

missions.

"They want to add more bureaucracy, spend more money and do more oversight

of each mission," Sensenbrenner said. "That is a copout. Faster, better,

cheaper works."

Pedro Rustan, a retired Air Force colonel, expressed concern about NASA's

decentralized management and inability to revise early cost estimates. Rustan

urged NASA address the need for adequate reconnaissance and communications

infrastructure around Mars, better navigation technologies and more adaptive

controls that respond to hazards and make the ultimate goal to put a human

on Mars.

"There is no magic with faster, better, cheaper. It is just common sense,"

Rustan said. "If the processes and culture are not fixed, and if the correct

people are not chosen to lead programs, more money will not help."

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