The board that has been tasked with reviewing NASA's plans to build a craft that will return astronauts to the Moon apparently has too many insiders.
The NASA inspector general, which is the agency's own watchdog group, has suggested suspending six of the members on the board due to conflicts of interest. The chairman and five other members work for the very companies that NASA has hired as part of the space shuttle replacement program. The issue, NASA says, is that the agency clearly needs experts for these boards, and those with the knowledge to review these plans are often industry professionals.
Read the full report here.
I tend to side with NASA on this, although it's hard to really decide with this scant amount of info.
There probably just aren't that many choices available. There are only so many high tech companies, and only so many really qualified experts.
Also, while everybody wants their company to do well, they're certainly not going to bless a design that has significant risk.
EVERYBODY knows who made the bad O rings. A failed mission leads to some intense analysis -- and woe betide any company that even appeared to have conspired to sell a faulty design.
Not only that, there are several companies involved. They may not all be experts in all areas, but all the folks involved will be paying attention to see that nobody is fast tracking something through.
Finally, there are the people themselves. They have to be tech weenies are qualified to do the job. Tech weenies are naturally objective. They train for years on scientific rigor. Also, believe it or not, most people want to do a good job.
I would also like to rant on politicians and NASA hers, but I won't.
It's too bad our government doesn't have a better watchdog organization to ensure those who hold the highest offices in our country don't have "Conflicts of Interest". Bravo NASA IG, BRAVO! We don't need another self-licking ice cream cone.
Um, the o-rings were fine -NASA wanted to launch when they were outside their operational envelope, and the management at Morton-Thiokol let themselves get pressured into giving the go-ahead when they should have said no. Admittedly, the choice of FKM for the O-ring material might not have been the best one, but it worked fine as long as it was used within its operational parameters. What NASA really needs to do is get a bunch of retired or semi-retired engineers to do the eval- no conflict of interest.