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NASA chief pledges shuttle safety changes

NASA chief pledges shuttle safety changes

作者:抗怡  时间:2019-02-26 04:14:03  人气:

By David L Chandler, Washington DC Facing reporters for the first time since the release of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board’s damning report, NASA chief Sean O’Keefe said on Wednesday “I take personal responsibility” for some of the management failings. The CAIB report, released on Tuesday, said flawed NASA culture was as much to blame for the fatal shuttle disaster in February, as technical failings. O’Keefe made a strong pledge to “fully comply” with each of the 15 immediate and 14 longer-term recommendations made. “There must be institutional changes,” he said. But O’Keefe was hard pressed to explain how this time would be different, given that similar pledges were made by NASA in response to the 1986 Challenger Commission report and two subsequent high-level reports. The CAIB found that NASA had not lived up to those pledges, and had gradually returned to old ways of thinking. Making the necessary changes stick, says the Columbia report, will require a truly independent safety body within NASA, amongst other things. O’Keefe said he did not intend to hold Columbia mission managers accountable for misjudgments and even violations of safety rules. Rather, he suggested that the best way to change NASA’s safety culture is to appoint new people to key leadership positions – people who, as O’Keefe says, have read the CAIB report and “get it.” But James Oberg, a long-time veteran of NASA mission control and now author and consultant, is unimpressed. “My concern is that he has the same people in place who failed to spot anything prior to the accident,” he says. Oberg’s former NASA colleagues – people at the working level – tell him that the message so far is loud and clear: “You can blow up a shuttle and face no consequences. Or you can warn that you’re about to blow up a shuttle and lose your job.” One way of really starting to change the culture, Oberg suggests, would be to “find some people who expressed concerned and put them in charge of the people who should have been concerned and were not.” Sheila Widnall, an MIT aerospace engineer and member of the CAIB, says one problem has been that NASA employees thought the safety office was a career backwater. She suggests appointing “a bright star in there, then move them to a high-level job. Soon you’ll get people vying for that job.” The CAIB report stresses that such changes to the safety culture will require vigilant oversight by Congress and the US administration, who fix NASA’s budget. Several legislators quickly expressed their support. Representative Dana Rohrabacher (Republican, California) said: