More from the BBC and NASA's rebuttal (5.00 / 1) (#9)
by nascent on Wed Mar 22, 2000 at 04:50:24 PM EST
A few links that might help out the curious. The first is from the BBC, just telling us what we've already read in different words. The second is a post on Slashdot from a person who claims to have worked at NASA for four years. He also includes NASA's official rebuttal. For clarity sake, I'll reproduce it below.
James Oberg of UPI claims that NASA knew there was a problem with the Mars Polar Lander propulsion
system prior to the Dec. 3 landing attempt and "withheld this conclusion from the public." NASA categorically
denies this charge. Here's what NASA did and what NASA said:
- The Stephenson report, phase 1, was released to the public on November 10, 1999 during a press conference at NASA Headquarters.
- The report made 11 different references to technical issues or concerns involving the propulsion
system and the Entry, Descent and Landing (EDL) sequence.
- This issue was specifically addressed in the press conference and in "MPL Observation No. 5" and other public recommendations of the Stephenson Phase 1 report. It was entitled, "Cold Firing of Thrusters," and dealt in detail with the catalyst bed issue cited by Mr. Oberg of UPI in his March 21 story, "NASA Knew Mars Polar Lander Doomed."
- Had UPI researched the public documents released on Nov. 10, which have been available online at
the NASA Home Page, the reporter would have been able to conclude that NASA did indeed publicly
address propulsion issues, and specifically, the propulsion system's "catalyst bed" temperature
- Based on this review, NASA knew about the concerns with the propulsion system, NASA took
corrective action, and NASA hid nothing from the public. We made our concerns known in early
- Several failure scenarios have been reported in the press over the last few weeks, including the
lander legs microswitch issue. Outlets such as the Denver Post, Space Daily, and National Public
Radio's "All Things Considered" have covered this angle. There is nothing new in the UPI report
relating to this specific issue. The lander legs issue is among the failure modes we are studying.
- Both the Stephenson and Casani (John Casani, retired JPL flight programs head and also director of
mission assurance) teams have conducted intensive reviews relating to Mars Polar Lander, and their
teams have surfaced no evidence relating to thruster acceptance testing irregularities as alleged by
UPI. In fact, members of the review teams are using words like "bunk," "complete nonsense," and
"wacko," to describe their reactions to UPI's charge.
All of this seems perfectly reasonable (IMHO), but I still think that the Faster, Better, Cheaper methodology needs to be seriously reconsidered. But then I'm not exactly the only one thinking this, huh?
[ Parent ]