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NPR's Morning Edition
Broadcast 14/03/2000, Story 2

As part of the drive to reinvent government the national aeronautics and space administration has been finding ways to explore space on a startling diminishing budget but new reports suggest nelson's cost savings strategy created serious risks and the space shuttle program and contributed to a spectacular failure in at least one unmanned mission to mars n. p. r.'s richard harris reports

Until quite recently nasa has been downright boastful about the fact that it continues to get its job done with shrinking budget and shrinking workforce is the john locke studio heads the space policy institute at george washington university says the agency is now changing its tune

There's been a general recognition that knessett went a little too far in trying to reduce the cost of its activities that the montrose and faster better and cheaper doesn't seem to have worked as well we'll all the time and so it's maybe now fails to better but not quite so cheap

Nasa administrator daniel goldin had championed a faster better cheaper philosophy not only to help the clinton administration showed that it was reinventing government but to do more science marcia smith of the congressional research service notes that when goldman arrived at the space agency in nineteen ninety two space probes commonly cost upwards of a billion dollars each and some took more than a decade to construct

They have a whole suite a very complex instruments they can learn a lot what we're doing from galileo but they were very big expensive and time consuming projects and now the pendulum swung over to the other side we're having these very short term mission's done much less expensively which means you're adding market risk to the program and so i think it's really not surprising that some people are now looking at the sea potential um we're not too far on one side and now they have to come back down a little bit

The most spectacular failure attributed to a program that cut too many corners with the mars climate orbiter it apparently crashed into march last year because one group of engineers was using conventional english measurements while another was using the metric system and nobody noticed until the mission failed cost cutting also carved money out of the space shuttle program nasa has farmed out shuttle operations to an independent contractor and has reduced its oversight over the program

Smith says one space shuttle flight last year had problems so severe they could easily have been catastrophic

Whether they've just been locke was on nasa side i think that the problems that were encountered last summer during a fight that eileen collins the pilot it really was a wake up call to a lot of people in finding all the wiring defect from the shuttle and bring out the tunes over in a fuel valve and everything and really make people stop and look at the shuttle program to see what was going on there a report

Issued last week concluded among other things that nasa needs to beef up its work force to identify problems before troubles lift off the ground space agency officials say they are indeed trying to hire more people to oversee the shuttle program and for the first time in years and

Asking congress for more money rather than less and more changes are likely to come from logs and notes that a committee that has been evaluating nasa's the entire mars exploration strategy is expected to have strong words for nasa later this month

I think they're going to recommend a pretty fundamental restructuring of the mars program slowing it down stretching it out maybe reducing its ambition so uh i think there's a continuing process of re invention in in the country space program

There's nothing inherently wrong with pursuing a faster better cheaper strategy for space exploration these reviews are finding

As long as nasa doesn't forget that it's all for not admissions don't succeed richard harris n. p. r. news washington

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