Source: NASA OIG presentation of NASA information

 

Another sobering report from NASA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) has been released today.

A report focused on NASA’s Top Management and Performance Challenges takes an in-depth look at several key challenges the agency faces.

Top challenges

Challenge 1: Landing the First Woman and the Next Man on the Moon by 2024

Challenge 2: Improving Management of Major Projects

Challenge 3: Sustaining a Human Presence in Low Earth Orbit

Challenge 4: Attracting and Retaining a Highly Skilled Workforce

Challenge 5: Improving Oversight of Contracts, Grants, and Cooperative Agreements

Challenge 6: Managing and Mitigating Cybersecurity Risk

Challenge 7: Addressing Outdated Infrastructure and Facilities

Credit: NASA

This report presents the OIG’s independent assessment of these seven challenges and links each challenge to one of NASA’s strategic objectives. The just-issued appraisal also considered the initial effects of the coronavirus pandemic (COVID‐19) on the Agency’s operations and missions.

Culture of optimism

In the past 10 years the Agency’s space exploration priorities have shifted multiple times from the Constellation Program’s lunar ambitions to an asteroid retrieval effort focused on developing technologies to enable a human mission to Mars and then back to an expedited crewed return to the Moon, the report explains.

“Additionally, the Agency has been challenged to temper its culture of optimism and require more realistic cost and schedule estimates for major projects by establishing well‐defined and stable requirements and maturing technologies early in development,” the report notes. “Despite all of this, NASA has continued to develop and manage some of the world’s most complex systems and projects while juggling the annual appropriations process and shifting timetables. As the Agency moves forward with key decisions on several of its major projects, addressing the challenges discussed in this report will be paramount to success.”  

Credit: NASA

Lunar ambitions

The OIG report states that, while NASA has made significant progress to further its human exploration efforts, “many questions remain about the total cost, schedule, and scope of the Agency’s lunar ambitions.”

Furthermore, the report stresses that, given multiple challenges, “we believe the Agency will be hard-pressed to land astronauts on the Moon by the end of 2024. At the very least, achieving any date close to this ambitious goal—and reaching Mars in the 2030s—will require strong, consistent, sustained leadership from the President, Congress, and NASA, as well as stable and timely funding.”

Earth orbiting research lab, internal and external – the International Space Station (ISS).
Credit: NASA

ISS – full utilization questioned

Regarding the future of the International Space Station, the report says that until both SpaceX and Boeing are operating regular crew transportation flights to the ISS, “the Station will be challenged to operate at full utilization, impacting the amount of on-board research and Station maintenance that can be accomplished.”

To take a read of the entire OIG assessment, go to:

https://oig.nasa.gov/docs/MC-2020.pdf

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