Back to Top

What lessons could you learn from a low-cost, short-schedule mission?

In the video clip, Scott Hubbard, who was NASA’s manager for the Lunar Prospector Mission that launched on January 6, 1998, talks about the project management challenges he faced in the low-cost and short-schedule mission. Hubbard shares key lessons that were learned from the Lunar Prospector that might be applicable for future missions. This presentation was delivered at the Principal Investigator Forum 4 on November 8, 2011.


Video key learning points:

    1. 1.

      Do as much testing as possible. You might not need as many redundant systems in place on a spacecraft if you test it well.

    2. 2.

      Think and strategize ahead of time about your plans if anything goes wrong. Think about your mission recovery plans.

    3. 3.

      The spacecraft used the Athena II launch system. This was the first launch of the Athena II. The first launch is usually watched and analyzed very carefully by the contractor’s A-team, so it can be an advantage to be the first to use a launch system.

    4. 4.

      Make your own luck by paying attention to all the details of a mission.

    5. 5.

      To make this limited-budget, short-schedule mission succeed, the project management froze the design and developed the spacecraft without deviation; minimized the staff but had a mix of senior and junior people; and kept a good level of oversight but contained the cost.

    6. 6.

      Having the contractor and NASA management working in close proximity helped to speed up and streamline processes.

    7. 7.

      Use contractor systems wherever possible.

    8. 8.

      Combine Independent Readiness Reviews with normal prudent project milestones.


Related Resources

Lunar Prospector: Managing a Very Low-Cost Mission — By Scott Hubbard

Lunar Prospector Mission Overview

NASA Bio: Scott Hubbard

Principal Investigator Forum 4

Principal Investigator Forum Videos

Principal Investigator Forum Presentations

APPEL Courses for Building and Leading Teams

APPEL Courses on Lessons Learned for Mission Success

About the Author

Share With Your Colleagues