The days of Constellation staff meeting discussions centered on how many models of the stick are available for the minions' desktops are not far behind us. However, the tone of recent meetings has been a bit more, shall we say, "mature" of late.
Its all part of a time-tested last gasp survival strategy.
In the background, we have an Ares 1X test that is receding to the right on the calendar. Beset by the holy trinity of issues: cost, schedule, and technical problems, many of the senior minions, and not a few Viceroys, are now almost hoping for program cancellation before the test proceeds and embarrasses all concerned.
Like everything about Constellation, cognitive dissonance abounds. Recent discussions over the similarly receding schedule of Ares 1Y have led management down the trail to cancellation of the test, least it get in the way of that mythical 2015 date. And if you don't launch, you don't fail, goes the rationale.
But this week, SMA minion Noriega decided enough was enough and pressed back on the program. In the tightly choreographed exchange, Noriega recognized that the program was starting from a bad place, test-wise speaking, and was moving to a worse place to save cost and schedule. He suggested that the good Viceroy Hanley bite the bullet, slip the Ares 1Y schedule, and fully fund it.
We said tightly choreographed, because such exchanges would never have occurred with the former Chief Engineer of the Universe. Even now, unless the outcome was predetermined, the conversation could be quite embarrassing for the initiator if he/she is sent packing.
Not this time, though. Cue drum roll.
"We are going to do the right thing!" championed the Viceroy. Put the test back in the budget and take the schedule slip. Say what?
What we have observed is the laying of the groundwork for the baking of the program briefing to Norm's panel of unexperts. The recipe is one part blame the newly endowed chair at the University of Alabama for the problems at hand, one part appear to take control of the situation now that he is gone, and one part hope. Hope, that is, that the panel doesn't dig too deep and find out that those responsible for the management nightmare that got us to this point are in fact clinging onto their jobs by proposing solutions to fix the problems they walked into in the first place.