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Stepping-Stones to the Future of Space Exploration: A Workshop Report
He stated that the CAIB findings are just as relevant to the new exploration vision as to the space shuttle program. Many in the audience agreed that although NASA is a riskaverse organization, it does not appear to have learned lessons from the Challenger accident. Panelists also discussed issues of communication and agency integration. Joseph Fuller addressed the idea of management risk in addition to technical risk. He stated that the ASTRA plan presented to the workshop does not address risk. He also mentioned that perception of risk is a function of the level of how much is known about a program or technology. While making informed decisions is key and risk assessment is necessary, Fuller noted that probabilistic risk assessment is not the only method available for consideration.
Gregg Hagedorn cited the Naval Sea Systems Command as an example of an organization that has experience with day-to-day management of risk associated with its fleet. Hagedorn commented that the public understands risks to humans but has less appreciation of risks to technology. There is a challenge in separating programmatic and technical risks to avoid conflict of interest. Leadership is also necessary to encourage people to admit when mistakes have been made.
The U.S. Congress, as had been mentioned by Neil Armstrong in the first panel, is ultimately responsible for seeing that the federal government acts in the best interest of the public. Richard Obermann stated that Congress understands risk and deals with decisions that must be made quickly, often based on a limited amount of information. He also commented that members of Congress perceive risk based on past experience with NASA and are therefore likely to view cost estimates with skepticism.
Michael Stamatelatos of NASA’s Office of Safety and Mission Assurance described the use of probabilistic risk assessment at NASA in various programs. He agreed that there is a need to improve risk awareness organizationally and develop in-house expertise to understand probabilistic risk requirements.
Several participants mentioned that the use of probabilistic risk assessment in a vacuum is short-sighted. Understanding NASA’s culture and the institutional barriers within the agency are key to the effective treatment of risk.
INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION/COMPETITION—WHY, HOW, WHEN?
The panel began with an overall discussion of the rationale for and history of international cooperation and competition. Panelists agreed that international cooperation is not altruistic but instead is enacted because the individual partners conclude that they can benefit in some way. They also mentioned that cooperation would most likely increase the complexity and cost of the overall project but could make its pursuit more affordable for the individual partners. The International Space Station (ISS) was cited as an example of a scientific and engineering program becoming a foreign policy tool. However, Ian Pryke cautioned that a project could also become hostage to foreign policy.
Most panelists mentioned in their remarks that President Bush had decreed that the new exploration vision would involve international cooperation of some kind.6 The questions are when and how. Panelists also stressed that any cooperation on the
NASA, The Vision for Space Exploration, February 2004.