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Masters Forum 18: Passing the Torch

Masters Forum 18As NASA anticipates the eventual retirement of the Space Shuttle and the development of its replacement, Masters Forum 18 was a timely opportunity to reflect upon the many important lessons learned from the formulation, development, and operations of the Space Shuttle program.

Fortunately, many of the master program/project manager and engineering practitioners who were involved in the shuttle program are still available and participated in Masters Forum 18 to share their stories and lessons learned with current and future practitioners within NASA. In addition, a number of key Constellation Program leaders, who are working on systems that will eventually replace the shuttle, shared their experiences.

The Forum took place May 11-15, 2009, in Cocoa Beach, Fla. It was a collaboration between the Academy of Program/Project & Engineering Leadership, NASA’s Exploration Systems Mission Directorate, and the NASA Headquarters and Kennedy Space Center Public Affairs Offices. The program included several panel discussions, including an afternoon devoted to key challenges and opportunities in developing Constellation space transportation elements. The concluding event was a Tour of the Kennedy Space Center.


John B. Charles, NASA Johnson Space Center John F. Connolly, NASA Johnson Space Center Roger Crouch, NASA retiree Brent J. Fontenot, NASA Johnson Space Center Mark S. Geyer, NASA Johnson Space Center
Noel W. Hinners, Consultant Matthew Kohut, InFact Communications and NASA APPEL David M. Lengyel, NASA Headquarters Laurie Leshin, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Thomas (Tom) L. Moser, NASA retiree
Bryan OConnor, NASA Headquarters James B. Odom, Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) and NASA retiree John M. Olson, NASA Headquarters John ONeill, NASA retiree Russel E. Rhodes, NASA Kennedy Space Center
Edward W. Rogers, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Joe Rothenberg, Universal Space Network and NASA retiree Michael J. Sander, Jet Propulsion Laboratory John (Phil) P. Sumrall, NASA Marshall Space Flight Center Geoffrey L. Yoder, NASA Headquarters



The Shuttle Program: Formulation, Development, and Operations

  • Thomas (Tom) L. Moser began his aerospace career at RCA Missile and Surface Radar Division as a mechanical design engineer. Joining NASA at the Manned Spacecraft Center (Johnson Space Center) in 1963, he held various positions including Apollo subsystem manager for the Command Module and Launch Escape System Structure; orbiter subsystem manager for the structure and thermal protection systems (tiles); orbiter deputy project manager; and director of engineering.
  • James B. Odom is currently a consultant for Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC). He began his career in the launch vehicle business with the Huntsville/von Braun team as a G.I. developing and launching the U.S. Army’s Redstone and Jupiter rockets.
  • Russel E. Rhodes has been employed for more than forty-nine years at Kennedy Space Center. He has served as a systems engineer and in engineering management roles with the Pershing, Redstone, Jupiter, Saturn I/IB, Saturn V/Apollo, Skylab, and Space Shuttle programs and is presently engaged in the Constellation program.
  • John W. O’Neill is currently engaged as an aerospace operations and management consultant working with companies in the Johnson Space Center area supporting the Center and other organizations in the area. At the time of his retirement in 1998, he held the position of director of Space Operations. He previously held the position of director of Mission Operations at Johnson and was involved in all areas of the directorate’s responsibilities for pre-flight planning, crew and flight controller training, and real-time flight control of NASA human space flights and the support facilities.

Abstract — As NASA anticipates the eventual retirement of the Space Shuttle and the development of its replacement, it is timely to reflect upon the many important lessons learned from the formulation, development, and operations of the Space Shuttle program. The shuttle program represented a dramatic departure from the launch and space vehicles of the preceding Apollo era, with a new focus on routine access to low-Earth orbit, utilizing a high degree of reusability, and higher flight rates, to attempt to meet its many challenging goals. There is much to be learned from this pioneering effort in space launch and operations and, fortunately, many of the master program/project manager practitioners who were involved in the shuttle program are still available to share these stories and lessons learned with the current and future practitioners within NASA.

This panel will examine the transition from the Apollo era to the shuttle program, the early conceptualization and definition of the Shuttle, the development of its many challenging new systems and subsystems, the changing political environment, and its flight operations over the past nearly thirty years since its first flight: STS-1, on April 12, 1981. The panelists have experience in each of these phases of the program, including extensive involvement in Apollo through the development of the Space Shuttle itself and its subsequent launch, flight, and mission operations, which they will share from their unique perspectives.


Return to Flight: Lessons Learned from Challenger and Columbia
Speaker — Bryan O’Connor is the chief of safety and mission assurance in the Office of Safety and Mission Assurance at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C. He has functional responsibility for safety, reliability, maintainability,
and quality assurance for all NASA programs and institutions.Abstract — In the days and months following the Columbia accident, we learned some lessons that perhaps have not been discussed to the same depth as the technical changes that went into the external tank, the analysis techniques we developed to analyze ascent debris risk, or even the on-orbit inspection and repair techniques for the orbiter.

Section 7 of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board (CAIB) report, titled “The Accidents Organizational Causes,” summarized the board’s findings related to communications, safety culture, and organizational relationships. Unlike the rest of the report, this section did not follow the model of facts leading to findings leading to recommendations. This made it very difficult for any two reasonable people in the Agency to agree on the real root causes or, as some tried to suggest, the “intent of the board.”

For future independent reviews, investigations, audits, or assessments, we should strongly suggest that the reviewer provide adequate factual information and clear ties between fact, finding, and recommendation. A well-crafted report that follows the factconclusion-recommendation model negates the temptation of trying to discern the board’s intent. It limits the chance of rabbit trails and other wasted efforts. And if, in spite of our suggestion, an independent report leaves too much room for interpretation, we should not hesitate to follow it up with a less independent study to focus our corrective actions so we can agree on a course of action and take it. Then we can get back to the mission with the best chance of benefiting from the learning opportunity that should be the goal of
any independent review.

Meeting these challenges will require increasing the productivity of U.S. research institutions; strengthening science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education; and improving and protecting information, communication, and transportation infrastructure. It will also mean enhancing capabilities in space, which are essential for communications, Earth observation, and “increasing our understanding of the universe and our place in it.”

Presentation — Organizational and Cultural Lessons Learned from Challenger and Columbia (Bryan O’Connor) (PDF)

The Shuttle Mission: Enabling Science and Exploration

  • Noel W. Hinners consults for NASA and the aerospace industry and 4-D Systems. He is executive secretary of the Management Operations Working Group of the NASA Office of the Chief Engineer and a part-time senior research associate at the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics. Dr. Hinners previously served as NASA associate deputy administrator and chief scientist, director of Goddard Space Flight Center, director of the Smithsonians National Air and Space Museum, NASAs associate administrator for Space Science, and director/deputy director of Lunar Programs.
  • Joe Rothenberg’s career spans forty-four years, twenty-six years in the aerospace industry and eighteen years with NASA.
    Mr. Rothenberg retired from NASA in 2001 as the associate administrator for Space Flight, having been responsible for the Space Shuttle, International Space Station, and all NASA space operations and space communications programs.
  • Michael J. Sander leads the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) efforts in support of the NASA Exploration System Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters. In 1980, Mr. Sander left JPL for five years to serve at NASA Headquarters, first as the deputy director of the Life Sciences Division and then as the director of the Shuttle Payloads Engineering Division, where he was responsible for science payloads on Spacelab and other scientific payloads on the Space Shuttle.
  • John B. Charles is the program scientist for the Human Research Program at Johnson Space Center near Houston, Texas. He was principal investigator on experiments in the cardiovascular effects of space flight that flew on Space Shuttle flights and on the Russian space station Mir.
  • Roger K. Crouch currently consults with various firms and delivers inspirational and informative lectures on a broad range of topics. He previously served as liaison for higher education for the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate, senior scientist for the International Space Station, senior scientist for the Office of Life and Microgravity Sciences, and lead scientist of the Microgravity Space and Applications Division.
  • Tommy W. Holloway retired in 2002 as manager of the International Space Station (ISS) program for Johnson Space Center. He was named ISS manager in April 1999 after serving as manager of the Space Shuttle program (SSP) for nearly four years. He began his career with NASA in 1963, planning activities for Gemini and Apollo flights.

Abstract — Beyond its primary space launch vehicle role, the Space Shuttle served as a reusable “spacecraft,” or platform, to conduct diverse missions in support of the scientific and exploration communities and return to Earth to be reoutfitted to meet other mission requirements. This panel will examine a sampling of the challenges and unique contributions the Space Shuttle has made in space sciences, including the remarkable Hubble servicing missions that helped establish and maintain Hubble as one of NASA’s premier scientific observatories; in extensive life sciences research activities; in unique microgravity sciences projects; in Spacelab and other space flight projects and experiments; and as a critical enabler of the development of the International Space Station, the construction of which has demonstrated an important capability for future on-orbit operations and eventual space exploration beyond low-Earth orbit. The panelists, each having served in key leadership positions that led to these successes, will share their unique experiences in their respective areas.


The Hubble Partnership: Discoveries, Reflections, and Future Challenges in Science
Speaker — Laurie Leshin became the deputy center director for Science and Technology at Goddard Space Flight Center in January 2008. In this position, she is third in command of NASAs largest science center, and she leads center
strategy formulation, science, and technology investment activities.Abstract — The partnership between human space flight and science has led to some of the mos profound discoveries in the history of NASA. This talk will discuss key insights from the Hubble Space Telescope and promise for future human space flightscience partnerships as we venture back to the moon and beyond.

Presentation — It’s Hubble Time! Insights from Hubble and Other Adventures in Partnership Between Human Spaceflight and Science (Laurie Leshin) (PDF)

Using Case Studies to Learn from Experience

  • Edward W. Rogers is currently the chief knowledge officer at Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. He joined NASA in May 2003 as the centers chief knowledge architect, working first in the Safety and Mission Assurance Directorate and then in the Office of Mission Success. He became the chief knowledge officer for the center in 2006. His programs and initiatives have been embraced not only at Goddard but also within the Agency.
  • Matthew Kohut is a member of the communications team within the Academy of Program/Project and Engineering Leadership (APPEL) and the Office of the Chief Engineer. He is responsible for the monthly e-newsletter ASK the Academy and APPELs case study initiative, and he serves as a contributing editor to ASK Magazine.

Abstract — NASA has been making more and more use of case studies as a learning tool to transfer experiential knowledge to others. The Academy of Program/Project and Engineering Leadership has developed a library of cases for use in its courses, forums, and publications such as ASK Magazine. The Goddard Chief Knowledge Officer has developed more than fifty teaching cases from successes, failures, and close calls. Several short examples of each will be presented to demonstrate how cases can be effectively used to spread lessons learned. This will be an interactive session dealing with short cases.

Capturing Shuttle/ISS Knowledge for Constellation

  • David M. Lengyel is the risk and knowledge management officer for the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate. He has held positions in the ShuttleMir and International Space Station programs, served as executive director of the Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel, and served as the executive secretary for Administration of the Columbia
    Accident Investigation Board.
  • Brent J. Fontenot has been an aerospace engineer at the Johnson Space Center for twenty-nine years. Currently he serves as the lessons learned manager at Johnson, where he also manages the storytelling program. Prior to accepting this responsibility, he spent ten years in the Johnson ISO 9000 Office in varying job assignments. Before that, he spent sixteen years as a quality engineer with varying responsibilities.

Abstract — The conceptual framework of the Explorations Systems Mission Directorate (ESMD) Integrated Risk and Knowledge Management approach is based on the assumption that risks highlight potential knowledge gaps that might be mitigated through one or more knowledge management practices or artifacts. These same risks also serve as cues for the collection of knowledge, particularly knowledge of technical or programmatic challenges that might recur. ESMD uses a variety of modes — text, video, case studies, and classroom activities — to communicate the knowledge and continue to emphasize “learning through conversation.” ESMD works closely with the Johnson Space Center Chief Knowledge Officer to maintain an effective network of resources and practices to assist in the accomplishment of work within ESMD. Lessons from the Space Shuttle and International Space Station programs are an important element of this knowledge base. The speakers will highlight approaches and lessons learned to date.


Key Challenges and Opportunities in Developing Constellation Space Transportation Elements

  • Geoffrey L. Yoder joined NASA in 2000, formulating the Flight Hardware Development Branch within the Engineering Directorate at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Tex. In 2005, he joined the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate (ESMD) at NASA Headquarters.
  • John M. Olson is the acting director of the Directorate Integration Office in the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C. He is responsible for a broad range of exploration integration activities, architectures, processes, plans, and studies that span from international, commercial, government, and technology partnerships to synergy between science and exploration.
  • John (Phil) P. Sumrall joined the Marshall Space Flight Center in 1962 as a member of the von Braun team that developed the Saturn family of launch vehicles used in the Apollo program. When the Ares Projects Office was formed at Marshall in September 2005, he became the advanced planning manager. In this capacity, he is involved in planning for the Ares V cargo launch vehicle.
  • Mark S. Geyer is the project manager for the Orion project, the crew exploration vehicle for NASA’s Constellation program. He is responsible for the design, testing, and manufacture of the capsule that will transport crew to the International Space Station (ISS) and ultimately return humans to the moon. (Presentation by Fred Ouellete)
  • John F. Connolly leads vehicle design and engineering for NASAs Altair Lunar Lander Project Office at Johnson Space Center. As a member of the Agencys Constellation program, he is helping define the future systems that will return crews to the moon and transport them to Mars and beyond.

Abstract — In support of the Vision for Space Exploration, NASA has been charged to develop a new, more expansive space architecture and new space transportation systems and elements to meet the mission requirements. These systems would replace the Space Shuttle, meet future civil space launch and on-orbit operational requirements, and extend our reach beyond low-Earth orbit to reach the moon, Mars, and beyond. This has led to the development of the Ares I launch and Ares V heavy lift launch vehicles as well as the Orion crew exploration vehicle and the Altair lunar landing system. This panel will discuss some of the key challenges and opportunities associated with developing these systems: what is being done, some of the successes and risks, how they are being addressed, and what we are learning from these experiences. The panelists include the key leaders and program/project managers who are at the forefront of bringing these new capabilities to fruition for the Agency.