sources for adequate preparation—that could compromise mission safety. Pressure could increase when critical biomedical research is delayed by a disaster-related response, such as the one that occurred after the loss of the Challenger. Thus, to the technical risks of space flight, the President’s initiative has added the organizational risk that elements of the BR might be compromised in an effort to meet a societal goal. The single most substantial organizational risk that NASA faces may be the possibility that a thoughtfully conceived roadmap could be preempted or abandoned as a result of such pressures or of an abrupt change in policy direction.
Like the Challenger investigation, the Columbia Accident Investigation Board Report (CAIB, 2003) highlighted an inadequate safety culture within NASA leading to human performance failure. Figure 3.1 was included in this report because it illustrates the remarkable lack of agreement among a knowledgeable group of evaluators who were asked by NASA to address the question, How worried would you be about this risk if we were to go to Mars today? The responses were widely distributed, and mean or median values for such data would appear to be of little or no value. One of the key lessons from the Challenger and Columbia events was the importance of listening to even a single voice, if that voice came from a knowledgeable source, rather than responding to the “group mean” regarding risk.
These topics are conspicuously absent from the current version of the BR. Furthermore, differences in the organizational culture, and thus the safety culture, of the international space agencies participating in the International Space Station (ISS) or any of the future Design Reference Missions may exacerbate conflict both within crews and between crews and mission control, increasing the risk of human performance failure (NRC, 1998; Kanas et al., 2000). Support for this thesis is garnered from studies in analog environments, such as submarines (Wilken, 1969; Thomas et al., 2000) and Antarctic expeditions (Wood et al., 1999; Palinkas et al., 2004) that have noted cultural differences in interpersonal relations and adaptation to prolonged isolation and confinement as being relevant to BR Risks 24 and 25 (human performance failure due to poor psychosocial adaptation and human performance failure due to neurobehavioral problems) and, ultimately, to human performance failure.
There is a need to ensure close collaboration between NASA researchers, university- and foundation-based researchers, and operational personnel. Successfully implementing the BR will require working through or around this problem, bringing in various stakeholders (Palinkas et al.,