Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Code Blue.

Skip Hatfield is in the hospital and we don't mean figuratively speaking either. The Emperor put him there.

The minion Jeff Hanley held an all-hands videocon yesterday and said without saying that the Emperor told him to fire Skip. Leading up to this inevitable event, you'll recall that the Integrated Stack Technical Information Meeting was held a few weeks ago in Houston. After that, Skip and his team provided an outbrief for the Emperor. You'll also recall that the results were described as "overwhelming" and that the Emperor was quite pleased with the efforts of the CEV team.

Well, there's a little more to the story.

The Emperor was not hearing all that he wanted to hear in the outbrief. Ahead of the brief, Marsha told him a lot of what he should have been hearing but wasn't going to see presented. As you might guess, the result was a number of warm, and we don't mean friendly, exchanges between the Chief Engineer of the Universe and his then project manager.

As any good program manager would tend to do, Skip was watching his budget and maintaining his schedule on Orion. Seeing as he was headed towards a PDR, he was making decisions and making system selections so that he could take a myriad of options off the table and get after a real design. Consequently, he did not fund the Emperor's pet abort system, MLAS, and after seeing the weight numbers for the competing systems, he selected water landings over land landings.

The Emperor was furious. Having never really built anything of this complexity himself, he felt that the project could keep all the balls in the air, never make a decision before PDR, spending freely on would-be dead-ends. If the Skipwhacking hadn't taken place now, it certainly would have by PDR as the project would have blown through its budget and the Emperor would have had his head for that reason instead.

As Emperor's are wont to do, he signaled for his minion Jeff to hand Skip and his immediate staff their heads. That lead to the videocon...preceded by a letter to staff. The letter to the Constellation minions was certainly of a different flavor than Hanley let on in the videocon. If you read the letter, you'd swear Skip was asked to be let go.

And maybe he should have. Because of all things, one's own health and life is too important to be put at risk for someone, dare we say it, as incompetent as the Emperor has turned out to be.

Here's hoping Skip has a speedy recovery and lands on his feet somewhere worthy of his talents.

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