Friday, December 12, 2008

In His Own Words

May 2005
"What needs to be done to ensure openness and sound decision-making," the Emperor said, "boils to down to common courtesy. What I see that we need to focus on in NASA in terms of mending the culture -- to the extent that it needs to be mended -- are traits that we were taught at kindergarten: listen to what other people have to say; pay attention to their opinions; give them the respect of hearing them out and hearing them through and encouraging them to speak and making sure that all the viewpoints are heard."

"In a bit of tongue-in-cheek sort of way I've often defined management as the art of making decisions with less information than any fool would like to have. That is what we get paid to do. But in order to make decisions with less information than you would really like to have, it is at the very least important to hear all the information you can get," the Emperor said.

Sept 05
"...meetings that I’ve been in, leading up to Return to Flight, that there have been arguments, questioning, vigorous back-and-forth exchanges on technical matters. I think that is the right culture, and what is basically an engineering development and operations organization. As long as we can maintain that, we are on the road to recovery," the Emperor said.

Feb 2006
"The job of the Office of Public Affairs, at every level in NASA, is to convey the work done at NASA to our stakeholders in an intelligible way," the Emperor wrote.

Feb 2008
"Any candidate who contacts NASA and wants a briefing on what we are doing is entitled, and we are able to do that," the Emperor said.

Sept 07
"There's nothing more important to me in an agency like NASA than having an open, free, non-political discourse on topics," the Emperor said.

Oct 2008
"I am, of course, speaking about ethical decision making in our professional lives, about creating a culture within which all can act and speak with openness and honesty, about embracing the responsibility for our statements and actions. Integrity matters enormously. I personally believe that without it, there is nothing else which does matter," the Emperor said.

"Long stated as one of the core values of our agency, it is nonetheless hard to define integrity in the abstract. It is much easier to recognize it when we see it. It is a quality not well suited to self-assessment, a quality for which we are more easily judged by others than by ourselves. I’m sure that each of you has observed acts of notable integrity, as well as cases where people fell well short of expectations. We should examine the differences, make note of what integrity 'looks like' in practice, and strive for it."

"In engineering practice, integrity is speaking up in a meeting when you do not believe the facts match the conclusions being reached, or that certain facts are being ignored. Integrity is following the data. Integrity is refusing to fall in love with your own analysis, admitting that you are wrong when presented with new data that should alter your earlier view. Integrity is keeping a promise or commitment or, when circumstances change, explaining why an agreement cannot be kept. Integrity is walking into your boss’s office, closing the door, and speaking with frankness, openness, and honesty – and listening the same way. Integrity is being willing to put your badge on the boss’s desk when you believe that an ethical breach warrants such drastic action."

"That then leaves the question of objectivity, which of course is exactly the point of comments about “stifling dissent” or “unfairly skewed” analysis. Such accusations are deeply troubling because, in the end, they are accusations that we lack integrity. They chip away at the foundation of the high-integrity organization we strive to build at NASA. The efficacy of our team is predicated upon our ability to “follow the data”, to communicate constructively the differences of technical opinion throughout the organization. Accusations to the contrary, such as those in the mainstream media or as found on many web postings, reverberate as echoes of lessons not learned from the Challenger and Columbia tragedies."

"So – differences of engineering opinion are cited as evidence of lying, of malfeasance? This is not how any of us were taught to conduct an engineering discussion. Quite frankly, it is demeaning to the profession."

Dec 08
“... I don’t understand what the problem is. We are just trying to look under the hood,” the Snow Princess said. “If you are looking under the hood, then you are calling me a liar,” The Emperor replied. “Because it means you don’t trust what I say is under the hood."


Anonymous said...

For the past 4 years I have complained to my colleagues that we have lost our technical integrity with the continued support and belief in the Ares-I concept.

The vehicle architecture is a non-starter and should never have made it past the level of a phase A study, much less into production contractor stage. Ready, fire, aim.

Press on regardless: Look the other way and ignore the unstable aerodynamics and inadequate control authority.

Have your video cameras ready if they ever attempt to launch one of these things, the results will be spectacular.

The laws of physics will not be denied.

kT said...

Quoting Ron Suskind :

"The aide said that guys like me were "in what we call the reality-based community," which he defined as people who "believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality." I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. "That's not the way the world really works anymore," he continued. "We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do."

Jon Berndt said...

To Anonymous:

If you are technically inclined, you might want to take a look at these recent papers:

- AIAA 2007-1780 "Ascent Flight Control and Structural Interaction for the Ares-1 Crew Launch Vehicle"
- AIAA 2008-6575 "Effect of Nozzle Burn-Through on CLV Booster Controllability"
- AIAA 2008-6576 "Effects of Solid Rocket Booster Case Breach on Vehicle and Crew Safety"
- AIAA 2008-6287 "Ares-1 Flight Control System Overview"
- AIAA 2008-6291 "Analysis and Design of Launch Vehicle Flight Control Systems"

You are talking about "technical integrity", yet are making statements that are, actually, blatantly false. The above blog entry deals with openness, yet you find it very easy to make these false claims anonymously. There are certainly plenty of valid topics concerning Ares-1 that are being openly and frankly discussed by conscientious engineers. You might want to try again, after first having read a bit more about "the laws of physics", launch vehicle flight control and aerodynamics, control authority, etc. And be willing to stand beside your comments by signing your name.

kT said...

I think the point he was trying to make is that you can easily design a vehicle which is not counter to the entire body of knowledge of rocketry that has significantly better controllability via significantly better static and dynamic loads and balances than you could with the Ares I.

Face it, Jon, ANYTHING would be better than the Ares I. The thing is quite literally a monstrosity.

No one in their right mind in the Obama administration will stand for this kind of obscene nonsense as a suitable representative of a open and honest progressive society founded on science and technology as the solutions to our problems, such as the platform this new administration campaigned on and was voted in on.

You are going to see them kill this thing off real fast and an almost immediate move to high flight rate commercial launch vehicle services. Griffin has almost assured that now.

Jon Berndt said...

[revised comment]

I understand your position. I'll leave the editorializing alone - everyone has their opinion. I'd rather see a more civil and fair discussion, but I really do draw the line at outright false and uninformed technical statements. For one thing, it waters down any point the writer might be trying to make. For another, misinforming the public at large does nobody any good.

Further, while I have seen that the policy and architecture discussions have been heated in the various blogs, I'd also prefer to see at least an acknowledgement that the "guys and gals in the trenches" are doing some solid work. If you take a look through the papers I listed above you can get a feel for the immense amount of work that's being carried out to get the job done. Literally millions of simulation runs under all sorts of conditions at many levels of fidelity have been run. So, snide statements such as the one made above that suggest the vehicle will tumble and that the aerodynamics are not understood, and that there is inadequete control authority imply that the writer believes that the engineers haven't done even the most basic engineering work. That's not only ludicrous, it's offensive and disingenuous. It's fine to have a spirited discussion. But let's at least be accurate. And maybe we can tone it down a bit over the holidays? :-)

kT said...

I'd also prefer to see at least an acknowledgment that the "guys and gals in the trenches" are doing some solid work.

No doubt that they are. Wernher von Braun also produced many very workable and effective ballistic missiles using slave labor, just as he was 'instructed' to do by 'executive order'.

I remain convinced that much of the work done on the Ares I upper stage can be immediately applied to the modern problems of five meter core stages in advanced hydrogen powered and liquid hydrocarbon booster assisted launch vehicle systems.

But if we want to do anything significant in space in the near term, we aren't going to be able to gold plate these things in the manner that Michael Griffin and his astronaut advisers have done here.

Michael Griffin said this is the way we are going to do things, and that's that, and clearly physics and engineering indicated something entirely different, at the most fundamental level of knowledge.

You ignore physics at your own financial peril. We all know that. Whatever happens to Constellation, it's going to be a money thing, the severe technological shortcomings of the design only make it worse.

Anonymous said...

Well guys the Transition team members at one NASA center are kept in a locked room with an armed guard. To make sure who they do/do not talk with.

Anonymous said...

Armed guard??? Nice.

This is like a Rangel/Rezko/Blago/Dodd-Frank scandal made just for us space folks. Pop some popcorn and watch along at home as the ugly truth finally trickles out.

Anonymous said...

Jon, don't bother trying to reason with Elifritz/kT. He's a kook.

As for Ares 1, well, the fact that dedicated engineers in the trenches are finding ways to surmount the seemingly insurmountable in no ways changes the fact that they shouldn't have been tasked to do so in the first place.

One BIG rationale for Ares I was that it was going to be cheaper than man-rating and/or uprating EELVs to do the same job -- the money, effort, and talent sunk into just fixing the foreseeable (and foreseen) problems with Ares I alone blow away the promised savings over EELV.

Think of what that money could better have been spent on, and what those dedicated engineers could better have been dedicated to. Don't forget "what is unseen".

And what good is getting the damned thing to merely fly if it has insufficient margin for Orion, to the point that the latter is shedding safety systems and functionality because those things add too much weight?

kT said...

Jon, don't bother trying to reason with Elifritz/kT. He's a kook.

And I'm a kook who's gonna be in rightard face for many years yet to come.

Hey, look at this beauty :

A trillion here, a trillion there, pretty soon you're talking about real money. That makes $10 billion blown on Michael Griffin's wet dream look like chicken feed.

The big rationale for Ares I was, well there was no credible rationale for Ares I. And you call me the 'loon'. The fact that you people are still defending it, and him, after three years, is just laughable. And the rubes in the trenches just eat this crap up.

You all can't spin your way out of this one. This is going to be pure pleasure watching what Mr. Obama's team comes up with, and comparing it to engineering physics reality and what modern condensed matter physics tell us what is possible.

I just love this kind of stuff. America clearly has gone bizarre. Rocket on a stick.

Totally weird.

Anonymous said...

The idea behind Ares 1 is to:
1. Preserver the solid propellant industry.
2. Allow NASA to train engineers and managers on how to build a launch vehicle and flight software
3. Remove risk by keeping a prime contractor from owning the thing (like Boeing and ISS)

Ares 1 is about 1-1.5 years behind schedule. The flight software will not be ready to support Ares 1-Y or Ares 1 flights and to Griffins credit he was just recently given the full story on 1st stage problems.

Unless Obama people kill Ares I it will work. We need an extra .9 to 1.7 billion dollars, but we will get it to work. I would bet we get to fly it 4-5 times then replaced by Ares IV (the Ares V core stage with a Ares I Upper Stage/Orion).
BTW the 1st two Ares V test flights are in the Ares IV configuration. The Earth Departure stage will not be ready for 1st two Ares V missions.

So keep the faith and the wallet handy. In Sci-fi space flight is easy, in the real space program it’s anything but.

Anonymous said...

There are a few concepts and thoughts in this thread that deserve additional discussion:

AIAA papers do not a successful design make. What is in those papers does not relate to what has been put on the program documentation. The program documentation is what is being built.

If we were going to create the next generation of rocket scientists, this was a very bad way to do it. It is similar to being born fully grown and developed. This growing process should have been approached in a more planned and deliberate manner.

The concept of anonymous commentary is entirely valid in this instance. The powers that be do not recognize the right of individuals to express their opinion without fear of reprisal. We certainly cannot do it in the regular program meetings, in memos or anywhere around the program management structure without finding ourselves out the door.

Keeping the design away from prime contractors because of risk is absolutely insane. Delta and Atlas as well as Sea Launch have already ironed out the risk areas. They do it every day for a living. Their success record is indeed enviable. The vaunted NASA engineers have introduced more risk into this design due to their lack of experience and their reticence to listen to more experienced voices to the point that it is mind boggling.

Having reviewed over 100 of the program requirements documents to date, I can say that the authors have no clue as to what this thing should do. Like the mathematics, if you cannot express in words what the product is supposed to do then you do not understand the problem.

No amount of wishing and hoping is going to result in a turn around. Waiting for Ares V is not an option because using it for LEO ops is a waste of capability.

The only professional opportunity left is to withhold talent and exercise the foot vote.

Anonymous said...

Point taken. You can find silver in many nasty looking clouds making up a thunderstorm. A lot of ANALYSIS has been performed. But where is the integrated digital domain simulation of the full up ARES-1 incorporating the parameters of the selected flight processor and bus? We all can show that controllers with infinite bandwidth can make a piece of spaghetti fly. How about showing that with real world equipment?

Further, from what we've seen you'd have a hard time proving to us that the models have been VERIFIED. But verification takes resources that the program does not have. Why else is qualification testing being deleted from the program for the next two years? Why are we building and launching ARES-1 flight equipment before that testing is complete? (And we are, check the schedules!)

Yes, complex technical issues can be solved with time and money. But to trust program management that allowed the solution to become so complex that every schedule and budget they put out is fit for shredding on the day it is printed does not inspire confidence.

kT said...

So keep the faith

Faith is not a generally accepted scientific or engineering method.

On the contrary, 'faith' brought us the Ares I, which for some reason you still think is going to be a success. So please keep your 'faith' in your hearts, your homes and your churches, and out of our government and its scientific and engineering institutions. Thanks!

Jon Berndt said...

"Anonymous 12/13 07:38":

You missed the point. The AIAA papers were enumerated because they dealt directly with the false allegations that were made by "Anonymous 12/12 07:53". Your phrase "AIAA papers do not a successful design make" is of course true, and no one claimed otherwise.

kT said...

The problem is not positive control authority, Jon, the problem is the margins on that positive control authority when things go wrong.

Both Orion and Ares I are so statically unstable that even the space shuttle puts them to shame. Once you add in the dynamics and system faults and failures, it gets problematic in a real hurry. Since mass is critical, they are dumping the redundancy, so these problems just get a whole lot worse.

Clever and honest designers attempt to make the entire system as passively stable and benign as possible UP FRONT, and then add the necessary redundancy and abort modes to improve upon the natural propensity of the system to slide into safe modes if all else fails. Admittedly this is difficult during the early phases of launch, but it is not impossible if you don't throw everything that is known about flying rockets for the last fifty years or so to the wind and demand a 'politically correct' solution to the problem, which is precisely what the white house and NASA has done here. Even worse, it wasn't even a politically correct solution, is was a corporately beneficial solution just to ATK and Lockheed, and to a lesser extent a Boeing. Defending the mess will not solve the problems with the mess.

Anonymous said...

All I can say is go read it for yourself and decide.

Look at the Guidance, Navigation and Control documentation in the Preliminary Design data package. Examine the Nichols charts for pitch and yaw stability. [Margins violated]

Examine the discussion of aerodynamic modelling in the same document. [TBD]

Examine the Ares I-X GN&C CDR package and look for the same.

This is all good Phase A/B level work.

Jon Berndt said...

kT said,
"The problem is not positive control authority, Jon, the problem is the margins on that positive control authority when things go wrong."

Again, look at the papers I listed above which go into detail about some of the good analysis work that's been done - work that addresses and resolves some of the concerns listed.

Jon Berndt said...

I see from the tone of some of the latest comments that a wormhole has apparently opened up from Usenet, through the river Styx, directly to this blog. ;-)

The only items I have really been addressing are in the first post at top. The mention of the AIAA papers was meant as a courtesy for people who want to delve into this deeper and discover for themselves. I've intentionally refrained from widening the scope of my comments.

kT said...

Angry kt will soon be with us again.

Looking at Ares I, just from first inspection well over three years ago, I was alternately enraged, then laughing hysterically, and finally sobbing pitifully. But after five years of the Bush administration I could see it coming, and we even had warning this is what it would be. If America chooses this path, I will be dogging you for several decades, biting your ankles every step of the way. It'll be great fun, making fun of something that makes the Space Shuttle and the ISS out the be the great successes that they were, now, in retrospect.

After three years of complete and utter nonsense from NASA, the comedy of the situation is much more succinct, and reversible. A single flair of the pen, and our long national nightmare of idiocracy and illiteracy will be over, and our journey of rational discovery will finally begin.

The mention of the AIAA papers was meant as a courtesy for people who want to delve into this deeper and discover for themselves.

Do you honestly believe the Obama administration is that stupid? Discover what, that pigs can fly?

Engineers should have some ethics.

Unfortunately, Ares I wasn't designed by an engineer with ethics, it was designed by an engineer with an ego and seven degrees. Anyone professing seven degrees as credentials should be employed with great skepticism.

Anonymous said...

John, saying that some good work was recorded in a few papers is about the equivalent to saying that even a clock that is stopped is right, twice a day. I appreciate your efforts to bring this work to light but it isn't showing up in the design and that is where the rub is.

We have 200 seriously defective design documents that are about to be and some already have been used to procure parts for Ares 1. Efforts to call a halt and correct this problem have resulted in being branded as complainers and malcontents. The prevailing reason / excuse for the rejection is that the contractor will have the opportunity to correct these flaws when they enter the data in CRADLE. Managers are clinging to that vaporware as though it is a life preserver. By that time the defective design will have been turned into a defective assembly. The only hope is that it never makes it out of the 'swamp' alive.

The PDR data should be a red flag. That is where the true status is, not in a bunch of AIAA papers. When portions of the review are declared to be no-rid territory, that is another red flag. The flags are a flyin and our dreams are a dyin.

Jon Berndt said...

"John, saying that some good work was recorded in a few papers is about the equivalent to saying that even a clock that is stopped is right, twice a day."

You're misrepresenting and extrapolating the scope of my comments beyond the intended, specific, boundary. Oh, well. Hakuna matata.

The picture you paint portrays the engineering equivalent of running with scissors. In other words, like a lot of other major engineering projects.

Anonymous said...

John, I think that we agree that perhaps there was some intelligent engineering on this project. And we agree that this project, like a lot of other major projects, shares many of the technical errors brought on through inexperience, poor leadership and such.

The troubling issue is that when deficiencies are brought to light on this project, they or their advocates are immediately silenced or hidden. Space station was the same way. Hubble shared the same technical and managerial problems. They were simply displaced in time and are indicative of the culture that still exists within NASA.

The trick will be in getting these deficiencies corrected. It will happen in one of several ways: The program will be canceled outright; A catastrophic event will result in an overwhelming demand for correction which would include a change in leadership; An entirely new solution will become obvious and the current approach will simply fade into history.

The hidden worry is that if this program is allowed to continue in it's present form, there will be an entire generation of engineering talent that will have learned to do things the wrong way. They will point at the success of the previously mentioned reviews as justification for their actions. I have seen this before and I have seen those same people promoted into positions of leadership as a further cover up of the problem. Then they impose the same flawed processes upon the next generation and the problem never gets fixed.

My real interest and I would bet yours too, is to see this program meet the stated goals in such a way that each of us would be proud to sign our names to it.