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Michael Ciannilli, Leonard David, Tuesday, 7-17-12 July 17, 2012

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Michael Ciannilli, Leonard David, Tuesday, 7-17-12

http://archived.thespaceshow.com/shows/1816-BWB-2012-07-17.mp3

Lessons Learned from the Columbia accident & NASA’s human spaceflight experience

Guests:  Michael Ciannilli, Leonard David.  Topics:  Columbia lessons learned & human spaceflight safety issues.  You are invited to comment, ask questions, and discuss the Space Show program/guest(s) on the Space Show blog, https://thespaceshow.wordpress.com. Comments, questions, and any discussion must be relevant and applicable to Space Show programming. Transcripts of Space Show programs are not permitted without prior written consent from The Space Show (even if for personal use) & are a violation of the Space Show copyright.  We welcomed Michael Ciannilli of NASA to the program to discuss lessons learned from the Columbia accident & NASA’s history of human spaceflight. Leonard David of Space.com returned as a co-host for this program.  Our nearly two hour no break discussion started with Michael providing us with an historical overview of the Columbia accident.  We talked about the debris retrieval process & the fact that about 38% of Columbia was retrieved.  Michael was asked about surprises & among the many he mentioned, one in particular dealt with the tile & thermal impact showing burning on the inside & how that was a clue to what happened to Columbia.  Michael then listed several lessons learned.  When I asked if he could prioritize the items he mentioned, he said they were all important.  We talked about the Columbia Accident Investigation Board (CAIB), return to flight, incorporating lessons learned, & more.  Leonard asked about the idea of NASA HSF safety excesses & we asked Michael if lessons learned & HSF safety issues were shared with both the private sector companies & the Russians.  I asked Michael about educational outreach & he had some interesting things to say about the international internet audience as well as the local audience.  The subject of urban legends came up in the outreach discussion & we honed in on the idea of the possibility of a rescue mission.  You do not want to miss this important discussion.  Other issues discussed included the foam problem, Leonard asked about the “bone matrix” he saw in use at the CAIB hearings, & I mentioned the need to really know & understand the hardware given our recent intimate visit with Endeavour.  Cultural issues were a part of this discussion, including the risk of workforce lulls & the need to avoid complacency.  Michael cited tile issues as an example going back to STS 1 and studying all missions to really understand tile concerns.  One email dealt with NASA risk aversion & some space enthusiasts saying that to open the space frontier we need to “kill more people.”  Michael addressed these issues, going over the NASA mission & imperatives, their responsibilities, and the risks of all sorts of consequences coming to life.  We talked about individual worker responsibility and accountability with Michael giving us both NASA and personal insights into this subject.  We then talked about the balancing act required in weighing the risk trades of cutting costs, cutting corners, taking more risks, taking less risks, etc.  He suggested private companies will go through a similar process and talked about the consequences of decisions which can be devastating with the loss of a crew to the termination of a program or the loss of the company.  Michael explained the Criticality One status and what it means in the risk analysis process.  Another listener asked if shuttles still had life left in them at the time of retirement. The short answer was yes but don’t miss what Michael has to say about the condition of space shuttle fleet at the time of retirement.  Another issue discussed dealt with trying to find a lower cost way of operating shuttle and dealing with all their infrastructure without compromising safety.  Near the end of the program, we took a Southern California call asking about potentially different standards for government astronauts and private-sector astronauts.  I was asked to lead off with my opinion which I did from a business liability perspective, then Michael and Leonard discussed the subject. We had lots to say about informed consent, litigation, & the uncertainties inherent when involved in a jury trial.  As we were winding down the program, Michael provided us with his closing comments, then I added in my own comments that focused on the sports inspirational speaker, Ray Lewis, linebacker with the Baltimore Ravens, who gives a terrific inspirational speech to teams around the country, “Pissed Off For Greatness.”  You can find lots of information about this by using Google for his name or the speech title.  Essentially, this is about not accepting mediocrity in what you do & I extrapolated it to space.  HSF workers, regardless of being with NASA or any company as well as others involved in the space field cannot accept mediocrity.  Being pissed off for greatness implies that if you are not pissed off for greatness, then you willing to settle for being mediocre in what you do.  Michael, Leonard and I talked about this at the end of the program.  I hope you will concur with me that extrapolating this inspirational sports talk to space fits.  Michael closed us out by saying it takes courage to stand up and say something if you believe something is off or not right in the program.  He further said it takes a lot to challenge the bureaucracy and stand up but that we all have to do it when the situation arises.

Please post your comments and questions on The Space Show blog URL above.  If you want to email Michael or Leonard, do so through me at drspace@thespaceshow.com and I will forward it to the person of your choice.

Comments»

1. Terry in Corpus Christi - July 17, 2012

This was a good show. Two men giving their thoughts on the investigation of Challenger and Columbia. Engineers need to have the courage to stand up and fight for safety. Astronauts are not the only heroes. Those who put their reputation on the line and say “Let’s stand down until it is safe to fly” are also heroes.


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