Thursday, January 28, 2016

Remembering the NASA Astronauts

Horrifying. The explanations and descriptions of how decisions where made seem very ego based. Risk management is an under developed skill. 

This story reminds me a lot of formal vs informal evaluation assessments. These events clearly represent the reason why it is critical to make defensible decisions based on facts not pressure or snap judgements. Granted most jobs are not life or death if you are complacent but I'm sure you can connect the dots.

I look forward to seeing the SpaceX and Boeing Space programs. I wish them a safe and successful journey into the unknown. There is so much to be gained from expanding knowledge, but the unknown comes with inherent risk. With that in mind, I hope these new teams learn from past mistakes. I sincerely hope everyone involved, especially managers, are required to read these stories and spend extensive time understanding the complexities of the decisions they are making, how grave they can be. Expert decisions should never, ever be left to snap judgement. Yes, I realize in billion dollar (or even more expensive) projects will have inherent risk. I'm sure these space craft had other known risks. It is my hope that these organizations are not governed by fear and extensive policies; though organizations can not be governed by passion either. These programs have an emense amount of data, it is imperative to mitigate even small risks in a place where we know there is so much we don't know. 

I think of flying, just on Earth, and what it takes to maintain civilian air craft. These airplanes have rigorous maintenance schedules, meticulous guideline, safety checks, backups, and pre-flight check lists. The engine, as one example, has to be maintenanced every 100 hours with a full overhaul scheduled. 

I've never been to space. I dropped out of my first semester of aerospace engineering, in favor of design. So, I know nothing about the technical details or maintenance schedules of space craft. I would imagine it parallels or exceeds what is required from the FAA for airplanes, I just hope that NASA, their scientists, astronauts, engineers, and America never have to experience another space tragedy due to carelessness and whimsical judgements.

Perhaps the program managers should be required to have a PhD in HCI, a PMP,  and at least minor experience with engineering before being allowed to sign off on launches?