A sad day.
After the terrible explosion in 1986, Richard Feynman was included on an independent panel to find out what went wrong. He discovered a profound difference between engineers’ and managements’ probability estimates for number of flights without failure. One potential (and very important) reason that a system-ending failure can go unnoticed is the tendency of managers to believe top-down explanations.
It’s vintage Feynman, inconoclastic, penetrating and brilliant:
“for whatever purpose, be it for internal or external consumption, the management of NASA exaggerates the reliability of its product, to the point of fantasy.”
“For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled.“
Rand Simberg has a different take:
’30 years after Challenger, NASA needs to finally be allowed to instead focus its funding on continuing with what has been working — to help private industry continue to reduce the cost of access to space, and to locations beyond earth orbit, and to make its plans on that basis going forward
Eventually there’s conflict not only between managers and engineers, but bureaucrats and politicians trying to bend institutions to their aims, too.
I see it as a human organizational thing. Nature can’t be fooled, and takes no prisoners. Even the best among men, and in man, makes for politics; even well-designed organizations can outlive their usefulness.
Is this really where NASA is?