NASA airs plans to Congress
- By Paula Shaki Trimble
- Jun 21, 2000
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
"They want to add more bureaucracy, spend more money and do more oversight
of each mission," Sensenbrenner said. "That is a copout. Faster, better,
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
"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."