Columbia Accident Investigation Board
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9:00 a.m.
Hilton Hotel
3000 NASA Road 1
Houston, Texas


Admiral Hal Gehman
Rear Admiral Stephen Turcotte
Major General John Barry
Major General Ken Hess
Dr. John Logsdon
Dr. Jim Hallock
Dr. Sheila Widnall


Dr. Milton Silveira
Mr. George Jeffs
Mr. Owen Morris
Mr. Aaron Cohen
Mr. Robert F. Thompson

ADM. GEHMAN: Good morning. The Columbia Accident Investigation Board public hearing is in session. Today and this afternoon, we're going to deal with various types of risks. We're going to listen to a number of experts and talk about their view of risk management and risk mitigation and how risk is looked at from about five different angles, particularly as it applies to manned space flight and the shuttle program.

This morning we're going to look at risk as it applies to the original design and construction of the STS. Later this afternoon, we're going to look at risk from the point of view of experts on aging aircraft. We have a couple of experts going to testify and talk to us about how risk migrates over a period of time as aircraft are used. Then later in the day, we'll have Professor Diane Vaughan who will talk about organizations and how organizations deal with risky enterprises.

For this morning, the board is very fortunate to have a wonderful panel with years and years, maybe decades and decades of experience in this particular enterprise, the STS system. The Columbia Accident Investigation Board would like to thank the NASA Alumni League for organizing this panel -- and a special thanks to Norm Chaffee, the president of the Johnson Space Center chapter of the league -- for helping us to arrange this panel that we have in front of us.

What I'm going to ask, Panel Members, is if you would, first of all, go right down the row in some order or another and introduce yourselves and including in your introduction, if you would, say a word or two about the official position you had when you were involved in either the Johnson Space Center or the STS or shuttle program when you were actively engaged in running it. Then when you're finished with that, I would invite you all to make any kind of an opening statement that you would like to make; and then we'll proceed into questions.

So if I could ask you to start at one end or another there, and maybe with Aaron there, and introduce yourself, including a little background of your involvement in the space transportation system.


MR. COHEN: Good morning. Thank you. My name is Aaron Cohen and I was the first NASA space shuttle orbiter project manager from 1972 to 1982. This period of time encompassed the design, development, and the first four flights of Columbia. I retired as the Johnson Space Center director in 1993 and I taught at the Texas A&M University from 1993 until 2001. I am now professor emeritus of engineering at Texas A&M.

During this period of 1972 to 1982, there were many design challenges on the various subsystems and the integration of the subsystems into the basic vehicle. This included the structure system, the life support system, the environmental control system, the thermal protection system, which were the tiles and the carbon material, the thermal seals, the avionics system, the auxilliary propulsion system, the hydraulic system, and the many mechanical systems such as doors, actuators and tires.

I would like to say that we have a very good documentation of this activity, and it was prepared in 1993. It was a compilation of papers presented at a conference held at the Johnson Space Center in June 28th to 30th of 1993. This documents the design challenges of all the shuttle systems. The papers were prepared by the NASA and contractors' subsystem managers, and the subsystem managers were the backbone of the shuttle design.

This is my introduction statement. I will be happy to answer your questions in the hopes that we will be able to return the shuttle soon to safe flight.

ADM. GEHMAN: Thank you very much.

Mr. Thompson.

MR. THOMPSON: Okay. My name is Bob Thompson. My principal reason for being here today, I was the shuttle program manager from 1970 to 1981. That encompasses a time that we started into what we called Phase B, the very early design activities on the shuttle; and I remained the program manager through the first orbiter flight, at which time I retired and went to work in industry.

I'll be happy to answer any questions. I think certainly the subject of risk management, I think we all recognize that any vehicle that can fly to and from earth orbit is going to be a risky vehicle by definition. So you're going to have to deal with risk. I don't care how you design it. Of course, the way you determine that you want to design it really sets in the family problems you're going to have to deal with; and it's very important in the early design phase to pick the set of problems you're going to want to have to live with. I think we were extremely conscious of that when we picked the configuration that we picked, and we knew we had a lot of problems to deal with. As long as we continue to fly the shuttle, we'll have to have problems to deal with. So I'll be happy to answer any of your questions as we go on through the morning.

MR. JEFFS: I'm George Jeffs. I've spent since the Sixties in the space business, most of it with NASA, a lot of it with the Air Force also. I was at one time the chief engineer of the Apollo program, the program manager of the Apollo program. I was the Apollo program manager and the shuttle program manager at the same time for a while. I ran the space division that also had the global positioning satellites. The Rocketdyne division reported to me. The energy activities reported to me at Rockwell. I ended up running that part of Rockwell that was sold to Boeing.

I've enjoyed working on the space program with the NASA because we have thought alike. We have been after the basic cause of problems rather than Band-Aiding problems. We've left no rock unturned to try and get the right answer to these things, mutually. We may have missed a few, but they were unknown to us or we would have fixed them. All those years I have spent in the middle but between NASA and industry and making those teams work because the teams are just as important a part of making these big programs happen as the hardware itself. I find myself again in the middle here, with NASA fine people on both sides of me, a thorn amongst roses; but at any rate, I will try and also answer any of the questions you might have that we may recall the answers to. We're all very proud of the hardware and its performance. Some of the best memories that I have are the astronauts telling us, after flights, what beautiful hardware it was to operate. Thank you.

ADM. GEHMAN: Thank you, sir.

MR. MORRIS: My name is Owen Morris. I was with NASA throughout the Apollo program and worked on the space shuttle from 1972 to 1980. Initially I worked with Aaron as his assistant orbiter manager, and then later I was in charge of systems integration at the Level 2 of the program. I worked with Bob Thompson there from late 1972 to 1980, retired in 1980, and then formed a company of my own for the next 15 years, working on conceptual design. I'm very happy to be here and look forward to answering your questions.

ADM. GEHMAN: Thank you, sir.

DR. SILVEIRA: Hi. I'm Milton Silveira. I first became involved with the shuttle in March of '69, before we landed on the moon. I was involved in Phase A studies; but even prior to that, I was involved in the design of the systems, support systems on Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo. I went through the Phase B studies; and when we started into the hardware studies, I moved from running a shuttle office in engineering and development over to become Aaron's deputy as orbiter project manager.

I was involved with the shuttle up until about '80, when I moved to headquarters to become NASA chief engineer. I retired from NASA in '87, after 36 years with NASA.

I currently serve as a technical adviser to Lieutenant General Ron Kadish in the Missile Defense Agency. I'm glad to be here and hope we can help you.

ADM. GEHMAN: Thank you very much. Did you all get to make any opening statements that you would like to make before, basically? Okay. That's fine.

Okay. What we'll do is start a round of questioning here and I'll go first and then I'll open to any one of my panel members.

I'll address my question -- and all of us will follow this procedure. We'll address our question to somebody, but I hope that any of you who wants to piggyback on the reply or elaborate or anything will please feel free. We would love to have two or three answers to the same question because you all approach this thing from slightly different angles. Some of you were more intermittently involved with systems and some of you were more project manager and integration related. So I'll start the first question.

Mr. Thompson -- and others, too -- I notice that in addition to being involved in the STS system in the Seventies, which was in the program design definition phase, that you had previous experience in Gemini and Apollo also. Could you in any way contrast the engineering development, the project managership, the rules under which you operated of those two systems? Is it possible to draw for us any differences or similarities between those two systems? And then I would invite anybody else that would like to comment on that.

MR. THOMPSON: Well, I would give you a broad, general, off-the-top answer. I think the processes and procedures and the management approaches and techniques were better in shuttle than they were in either of the two programs previously, mainly because we in government and we in industry had matured a good deal by working through those programs. For example, all through Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, Skylab, we kept a "Lessons Learned" document. 8086 or something. I can't remember the number. I think it was the 8086 document, and we made the 8086 document an applicable document on the shuttle program.

Let me pick a specific example. We lost a main propulsion test article during the shuttle development period because we used the wrong weld wire in a critical weld joint. That wrong weld wire came about because the vendor had mixed two metals on the weld wire reel. We had learned in an earlier program that, in any critical welds, you ought to test the weld wire you're actually using before you make the critical weld. We missed that early in the shuttle program. We came back and corrected it, but that lesson learned came out of the previous programs and fed on into the later programs.

So that's just one of many, many, many examples I could cite and I think, frankly, both the government management team and the contractor management team was more experienced and probably was able to take on the shuttle design and development job and in many respects the shuttle design and development job was considerably more difficult than Mercury and Gemini and probably more difficult than any single element of the Apollo program. So I think I would say that we were better prepared to manage and develop a critical risk program in shuttle than we were previously.

MR. COHEN: I'd like to add my comment. It's almost the same as Bob's but maybe a little different emphasis. I was on the Apollo program. I wound up being the manager of the command and service module on Apollo. The heritage we had from Apollo was a very strong subsystem manager concept, both at the government and at the contractor. It turned out to be a very, very good system. Our subsystem managers, in all honesty, were not peak ticketed, so to speak, to the program office. They actually worked for the head of the engineering directorate, which was Max Faget at the time, but the subsystem managers essentially did do their daily work for the project office and there was a very good check and balance. They had a very good relationship with their counterparts at Rockwell or at Grumman or in the Apollo program, but in the shuttle program at Rockwell.

There was just a very good check and balance in the system. I felt very comfortable with that because if there was a disagreement, the subsystem manager could always go to Max and Max could then go to Chris, who was the center director, or Bob, and we could resolve the issue. So I felt that that was a heritage from the Apollo program that made it very good.

MR. THOMPSON: While we're on this subject, let me make another point that I would like to call to the board's attention. At the time we were moving into Phase B on the space shuttle program, we still had not decided what configuration to build. So the Phase B management was still led out of Washington with almost identical management roles at Johnson Space Center and the Marshall Space Center because it had not developed exactly what vehicle we were going to build. Once we got to the end of Phase B and it became apparent the vehicle we were going to build, we went into a somewhat new management structure for NASA, which set up a program manager at what we called Level 2.

If you aren't aware of it you need to understand what Level 1 was in shuttle, what Level 2 was, and what Level 3 was. The agency, NASA, and within the manned space flight, decided to set up a Level 2 program manager having agency-wide responsibility for the design, development of the vehicle but to locate that individual institutionally at the Johnson Space Center so that he could take advantage of all the institutional resources, but he did not have any program per se responsibility to center director. He had, of course, a desire to keep the center director informed, but he did not responsibly report to the center director. He reported directly to Level 1 in Washington; but in working in Houston, then you had to work across two other centers to work the other project elements.

In addition to the subsystem managers that were set up within the project elements, one of the key things that I feel that we set up to manage across the program were what I call ten key technical panels. We picked a key NASA individual to chair those panels, and we made those ten key technical panels all report into Owen Morris' office that was part of my Level 2 program office. Those key technical panels then had membership put on those panels of experts all around the country at other NASA centers, within contractors, within universities; and those technical panels worked specific technical issues that cut across the total vehicle. They reported in to Owen and then any issues came from there to my control board and I had the responsibility to sign off or approve or implement the things that came out of that integration process.

If that process has been allowed to weaken, I would be very concerned because that's the heart and soul of working issues across the vehicle of a technical nature. For example, if insulation is coming off the tank, the tank project manager cannot approve that. He cannot allow that to happen. That violates a systems-level spec. He has to come to the program manager at Level 2 and ask the program manager to approve a bunch of insulation coming off the tank. If the system isn't working that way and if the Problem Report And Corrective Action procedure is not working and if the program is not bringing the collective intelligence to deal with those kind of problems that you do if you work through the system properly, then you've got a problem in the program and you need to fix it.

ADM. GEHMAN: Let me follow up on that. I don't want to hog the microphone here. So I'll let my panel get a word in here edgewise. For me to understand the chain of command, did any of you work for the chief engineer at JSC?

DR. SILVEIRA: For the chief engineer at JSC? In reality, although he did not have that title, Max Faget, who ran engineering and development, was basically our chef engineer; and, yes, I was on his staff during the Apollo program.

ADM. GEHMAN: During the Apollo program. What about the STS?

DR. SILVEIRA: During the shuttle program, we started out that same way, yes, sir, until I became Aaron's deputy. Yes, sir.

ADM. GEHMAN: To get to Mr. Thompson's point then, as I understand this -- and I'm beyond my level of expertise here. If you were trying to resolve an engineering program -- of course, that's all you did for ten years was resolve engineering problems -- but the engineering section or the engineering division, would you describe for me the checks and balances between a fix, an engineering solution that Mr. Faget had responsibility for, versus either the shuttle integration office or the shuttle program manager?

DR. SILVEIRA: Well, probably our biggest disputes were always between operations and engineering as to what operations wanted and what engineering was capable of doing. I think, in general, the thing is, you know, we as a team had been working all through the Apollo program together and I think as a team we realized that we were all friends, we knew each other, we knew who to go to, and we knew how to resolve any issues we had. And we usually, you know, came to a compatible solution as a result, without having to be dictated to as far as what approach we ought to use.

ADM. GEHMAN: The point I'm trying to get at -- and thank you for that answer. The point I'm trying to get at is: Would it be incorrect for me to characterize Mr. Max Faget's role as being essentially an equal to the program manager?

DR. SILVEIRA: Yes, sir.

ADM. GEHMAN: That is correct.

MR. THOMPSON: I don't understand why you would use the word "equal." No, Max Faget could not make a within-the-program decision.

ADM. GEHMAN: I understand that.

MR. THOMPSON: He could come to me and make his wishes known. He could come to my control board and argue until we got to midnight, pro and con. If he did not like what I did, he could go to the center director, who could go to my boss in Washington and straighten me out; but when it came time to decide who made the decision, there was no doubt who made the decision and who was responsible for it.

DR. SILVEIRA: But there were few decisions that went that far.

MR. JEFFS: You need to put this in the right perspective, too. The majority of people worked for the contractor. On Apollo we had 40,000 people on Apollo. We worked for these guys, but those guys worked for us. On shuttle we had up to 20,000 people. So you've got a whole engineering structure, both in the contractors' level and the different contractors with the subcontractors. So those technical issues were being massaged with great care, and they were being interfaced with the NASA so that we had a team working. But the drawings came out of the contractor. The detailed decisions on how to do things on change control within the contract were done with the contractor. So you've got to look at both these things together to see who's making the decisions and how they're made.

MR. THOMPSON: And you have to really be a little more specific. Ask us any detail you want and we can tell you how that would be managed and handled. For example, if it was a stress-level issue down in designing what an allowable stress somewhere internal to a wing, you'd have to go deep into the contractor organization and check that work to really find out whether it was pro or con. And the subsystem managers in the government actually checked that work, not number by number, but looked at the procedures used, looked at the decisions made, looked at the allowables and the materials and this sort of thing. But now if you ask who's responsible for not having an abort system on the vehicle, you have to ask me that question. You cannot ask George Jeff or you cannot ask Milt Silveira that question.

MR. JEFFS: But if you would ask who, why it didn't work, then you can ask George Jeffs. (Laughter)

MR. THOMPSON: Well, if it didn't work, it's a combination of the government and the contractors.

MR. MORRIS: Yeah, I think, getting back to how decisions were made, we probably ought to talk about the Change Board that Bob Thompson chaired. That board was made up of all of the element managers. The orbiter was Aaron Cohen. The tank, the boosters, the engine. Reliability. Max Faget sat in on that board. He was a bona fide member of the board. Operations was a member of the board. And there was no significant decision made that that board did not understand. Now, as one of the program managers in Apollo once said, you know, "The board is here and this is a Democratic organization but I have 51 percent of the vote."

MR. THOMPSON: But there was never a significant decision made in the shuttle program that Max Faget didn't have plenty of opportunity to sit in my board while we were discussing it, make his wishes known as many times as he wanted to, and he knew exactly why I made the decision I made. Whether I agreed with him or not, he knew why and he knew and by the next day I had signed off on the decision and written up why it was made.

MR. COHEN: Let me hitchhike on one more thing. The orbiter also had a Change Control Board, and on that board we had Rockwell sit in on the board, we had a contractor sit in on the board, and we had each directorate, like Gene Krantz from Flight Operations, George Eddie from Flight Crew, Max, and R&QA and so forth. So we also had a board. Now, if it went outside our envelope boundary, then we would take it to Level 2; but if it was inside, then we make the decision.

MR. THOMPSON: And you can say the same thing for the other project elements -- the tank or the engine or the SRBs.

MR. JEFFS: As Bob says, the other elements, whether it's the SSMEs or the orbiters, these are engineering focus operations. The engineering is the head of the snake. So engineering had a key voice in almost every decision that was made down the line on these programs. And a free voice.

DR. SILVEIRA: And I think, importantly, the heritage of the organization, most of us came out of the Langley Research Center and we moved to the Manned Spacecraft Center when it came down to Houston. So we had a heritage of working together. We knew each other, and we respected each other. Once we arrived at a decision, everybody supported. There was no hassling afterwards. We were sort of really, in looking at a lot of organizations today, we were sort of unique in that regard, in being able to work together and make decisions together.

MR. THOMPSON: You never strive for 100 percent agreement. If you get 100 percent agreement, there's something wrong.

ADM. GEHMAN: Right, you're missing something.

MR. JEFFS: I'd like to add one more thing I mentioned earlier, and that is the issue of organization and developing organizations. I was fortunate to have, with the Apollo program, a source of great depth of capability of people, experienced people. They came from the aircraft areas. They came from P-51s. They came from SMJs. They came from across the board on how to build aircraft. A great base.

That base was trimmed and kind of honed during the Apollo program. That same base fortunately was maintained on the shuttle program. Trimmed and maintained. So we had not only the same kind of people but the same people, the same procedures had been smoothed. The knowledge of what each element could do and couldn't do within the organization and between ourselves and NASA was understood. That doesn't exist to the same extent, as I see it, in these different companies today, probably because a lot of these people are gone and you can't put everything in the data base. You've got to have with the people. So there you go.

MR. THOMPSON: George just read part of his proposal for the contract.

DR. LOGSDON: I want to go back to the period of '69 through January of '72. At the policy level, the decision whether to approve the shuttle was being debated; and you folks at the engineering and management level were getting, I think, changing signals of what kind of shuttle was going to be politically acceptable. I guess the question is, Bob, you said you started as shuttle program manager in '70 and, Milt, you said you were involved in the Phase A studies. Phase A studies produced a particular concept, a fully-reusable straight-wing shuttle. So first question: Did that first design have the large payload base, the 15-by-65 payload bay?

MR. THOMPSON: The answer to that is yes; and the answer to what came out of Phase A, what came out of Phase A, those of us that were given the responsibility to go implement the program felt that that was a very dumb way to go about it. The two-stage fully-reusable system, as we looked at it in detail about going to build it, a lot of people argued that politics made us change it; that is absolutely not correct. We changed from that vehicle because we found, as we dug into it, that was not a very smart way to go about the job, for many, many reasons. I could spend half a day here explaining it all to you, but the concept that politically we wanted to build a two-stage fully-reusable vehicle but couldn't afford it, that is not correct. The vehicle we built is the vehicle that the NASA people that came into the program starting in Phase B that had the responsibility for building it, we built the vehicle that we wanted to build, not the one that the politicians told us we had to build.

DR. LOGSDON: Fair enough. In 1970, a new set of requirements, I believe, appeared in terms of what was required to get the Department of Defense support for the program -- with additional cross range, I guess, being the most important of those new requirements. Tell me if I'm wrong, that that had a link to shift from a straight-wing to a delta-wing configuration.

MR. THOMPSON: You want me to answer that?

DR. SILVEIRA: Let me make some comments on that, John.

Of course, you know, a few of us got cleared on what the Air Force programs were; and once we understood what the Air Force requirements were, then we understood how that affected the design and changed over to meet those requirements.

MR. THOMPSON: I'm not sure I would agree with that. I think the myth that the straight-wing two-stage fully-reusable orbiter was a good system to build is strictly a myth. You don't want any wing on the orbiter while you launch it, and the only benefit of the straight wing is in the terminal approach and landing phase. The fact that what Max was proposing was to hold that straight-wing vehicle up above the stall level all the way down to 10,000 feet above the runway, then whip it over and land it on the runway and to carry those straight wings all the way to orbit and back, and to have a fly-back booster, that whole system crumbled when you began to look at it.

NASA did not put cross range in the vehicle because the Air Force forced us to. NASA put cross range in the vehicle because we thought that was the right way to build the vehicle and it just happened to give the Air Force some capability they wanted. But we wanted it for abort capability during the launch and we wanted to start flying the vehicle right at entry. We didn't want to keep the thing above stall all the way down to landing area and then flip it around. So the myth that the Air Force made us do something we didn't want to do is absolutely a myth.

DR. LOGSDON: The implications of that design for thermal protection came along with the NASA engineering decisions.

MR. THOMPSON: We got the same thermal protection the way we fly the shuttle that we were going to get with the straight wing. The straight wing was not any benefit thermally at all.

I guess it's awfully interesting to me, look back over 20, 25 years, the myths that have grown up and where they have come from. But I'll go on the record today saying NASA built exactly the vehicle it wanted to build.

DR. LOGSDON: I guess the final thing I'd like to talk about a little bit is the cost estimates for development and operation that were provided, again, to the political level of decision-making. OMB gave you a budget ceiling, I believe, in May of '71 that said you had to build the system with a billion-dollar development cost; and the ultimate presentation, at least to the White House level, said you could do that, or 5.5 billion, with an operating cost of $118 a pound. I'm curious where those numbers came from, particularly the operating cost.

MR. THOMPSON: Well, I'm not going to answer just the operating cost; I'm going to answer the whole question.


MR. THOMPSON: Again, one of the big myths on the shuttle is that it was way over budget. That's an absolute myth. In December of '71, when Jim Fletcher and George Low went to San Clemente to present the final recommendation to President Nixon, we prepared a letter that George and Jim took with them, a one-page letter. That letter said that we felt we could build the configuration that you now know as the shuttle for a total cost of $5.15 billion in the purchasing power of the 1971 dollar but that it would take another billion dollars of contingency funding over and above that to handle the contingencies that always develop in a program like this. So you need to budget 6.15 billion in the purchasing power of the '71 dollar and that we could build it and fly it by 1979 if everything went perfectly, but the $1 billion and 18 months ought to be planned in the program because that's probably what will really happen and we'll probably fly it in early '81. That was in the document.

Jim Fletcher and George Low went to San Clemente, had a little model of the shuttle. President Nixon approved it. He came back into the agency at NASA. Bill Lilly, who was the comptroller of the agency at that time, took that letter and started his negotiations with OMB. When he finally got around to getting it through the OMB cycle, they took the letter and said we'll take the 5.15 billion but we won't give you the 1 billion because we never budget contingencies. We'll hold you to the 1979 launch date because we never launch budget contingencies there, and we'll put it in the '73 budget at those numbers.

So we lost two years of inflation in that little maneuver in OMB. I went back and talked to Bill Lilly. He said, "Shut up. You got your program. Go on about your business." So we did. During those years of the shuttle development, inflation got as high as, what, 20 percent, 18 to 20 percent some years. We would usually get maybe two thirds of that out of the Congress. Also, the shuttle was picked as a program to be monitored by OMB and they actually put five or six people out of the OMB into my office level here at the Johnson Space Center and they monitored for several or probably two years exactly where all the spending was to try to keep an accountability in the program.

One of the fellows who worked for me in the financial area, named Hum Mandell, kept a very accurate level of the spending in the shuttle program. When we finished the program, his record showed that the orbiter actually underran our original budget, including the 1 billion-dollar contingency and the 18-month schedule. Our schedule was right on. The other elements of the program were slightly over. The total cost of the program, when you account for inflation, account for the under-commitment of the '71 to '73, you account for the deliberate schedule that OMB asked to us do with their funding, he came to me after the first flight and says, "Here. We can prove you met your cost and schedule goals." I called John Yardley in Washington and John says, "Hell, why don't you put it in a filing cabinet. No one's interested in that." We put it in a filing cabinet. Hum took it and got a Ph.D. thesis on it at the University of Colorado. So you can get his thesis and read it if you're really interested in the true funding.

One more thing. I remember being called on television at the time, not knowing that Jules Bergman was going to be on. After they introduced me, Jules Bergman says, "Hey, Mr. Thompson, you said you could build this thing for $5 billion. You've already spent 8 1/2 billion. That's a terrible overrun. What the hell you going to do about it?" Inflation doesn't mean a thing to the people who write in the papers, and it's a pretty complex job to keep up with the true cost of a development program like the shuttle. In fact, after three years, OMB quit and went home. So the myth that the shuttle was way over budget is another myth.

DR. LOGSDON: Bob, you didn't answer the question about operating costs.

MR. THOMPSON: All right. Operating costs. (Laughter) I had a better answer for development costs.

At the time we were selling the program at the start of Phase B, the people in Washington, Charlie Donlan, some of them got a company called Mathematica to come in and do an analysis of operating costs. Mathematica sat down and attempted to do some work on operating costs, and they discovered something. They discovered the more you flew, the cheaper it got per flight. (Laughter) Fabulous.

So they added as many flights as they could. They got up to 40 to 50 flights a year. Hell, anyone reasonably knew you weren't going to fly 50 times a year. The most capability we ever put in the program is when we built the facilities for the tank at Michoud, we left growth capability to where you could get up to 24 flights a year by producing tanks, if you really wanted to get that high. We never thought you'd ever get above 10 or 12 flights a year. So when you want to say could you fly it for X million dollars, some of the charts of the document I sent you last night look ridiculous in today's world. Go back 30 years to purchasing power of the '71 dollar and those costs per flight were not the cost of ownership, they were only the costs between vehicle design that were critical to the design, because that's what we were trying to make a decision on. If they didn't matter -- you have to have a control center over here whether you've got a two-stage fully-reusable vehicle or a stage-and-a-half vehicle. So we didn't try to throw the cost of ownership into that. It would have made it look much bigger. So that's where those very low cost-per-flight numbers came from. They were never real.

Let me make one other comment. In my judgment -- and no one can either agree with this or disapprove it -- in my judgment, it would have cost more per flight to operate the two-stage fully-reusable system than the one we built, even though the cost analysis didn't show that. When you get two complex vehicles like that and all one vehicle does is help you get up to staging velocity -- and the staging velocity is 12,000 feet per second -- when you build a booster that does nothing but fly up to 12,000 feet per second, you've built something wrong. I think that's what the two-stage fully-reusable system was; and I think, had the system tried to build it, we wouldn't have a shuttle program today. My feelings.

ADM. TURCOTTE: You've largely described what could be in today's, I guess, modern management vernacular as a matrix organization as it existed back in the Sixties and Seventies, et cetera. You also described some complex relationships between both contractors and the different center directors and the program manager, element managers, subsystem managers, et cetera.

MR. THOMPSON: There were no complications on the program management channels. They were very clear.

ADM. TURCOTTE: Okay. Could you explain the difference, as you see the organization today, in its relationships and its matrix structure today, and compare and contrast it to the Sixties, Seventies, and up to, say, the middle Eighties.

MR. THOMPSON: I could not, because I'm not in detail familiar with what they're doing today.

MR. COHEN: I don't think I can either. I knew that question was going to be asked, but I really don't know enough about what they're doing today. I understand the system very well. You described it as a matrixed system. It was. It may appear to be complicated, but it was really very well defined. The people, when they came to work every day, they knew what they had to do; and both at the contractor and at NASA, they knew what they had to do and they knew what their role was.

MR. THOMPSON: I want to try and make another comment. A lot of the people at NASA had come from working in a research center back at Langley, through Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, Skylab; and when we got to shuttle and set up the matrix organization for shuttle, it was clear to me then and it's clear to me now that the primary responsibility for integrating that program was the government's responsibility. So when we wrote the RFP for the contract that Rockwell ultimately won, we asked for them to build us an orbiter and to provide major systems engineering support. We did not say you're responsible for systems engineering across the program and we didn't say you're responsible for integrating the program, because they had no contract leverage over any other part of the program. They had no responsibility for the tank or the booster rocket and so forth, no direct responsibility. So it was the government's responsibility to integrate the program.

Now, we used all of the hardware development contractors in a very heavy support role. A lot of the ICDs were actually prepared on assignment by Rockwell in Downey, but those ICDs came into Owen's office for review. They went across the total program for review and came to me for signature, and I had the full control of those ICDs. Aaron couldn't change anything that impacted the tank. The tank couldn't change anything that impacted the orbiter without coming back to me at the systems level. So it was no doubt but what the government had the program management and the programs systems engineering integration responsibility, but we plugged the contractors in in a way to use their talent as effectively as we could.

GEN. BARRY: I've really got two questions, if I may. One has to do with history, and one has to do with design. On the history element, could you please give us maybe a characterization of what I'm going to say here -- and correct me if I'm wrong in any of it. It has to do with compromises.

Now, after, of course, when Apollo was coming to the end and Jim Fletcher was administrator, there were plans, originally, to put stations on the moon. Then that was backed off by the administration and there was a space station design with a shuttle. Then that was given up in place of the shuttle as we know it today, which was a bit of a compromise to try to put a space station capability payload to orbit, get down to hopefully $1,000 per pound eventually at some future point, depending on how many times you flew per year. The historical question I'd like to ask is: What compromises were made on the structure development on the shuttle in that time period? Then I'll ask my design question here.

MR. THOMPSON: I hate to keep hogging the thing here, but you're asking history and I guess I'm the oldest person here. To answer your question, I've got to take you to 1968 or '69 -- I can't remember which year -- and the Space Council. Do you know what the Space Council is?

GEN. BARRY: The vice-president.

MR. THOMPSON: In 1969, driven by the fact that the government works on five-year budget plan, it was then incumbent on NASA to put some dollars into the out years for where they wanted to go post Apollo. So the nation then came to a fork in the road or what are you going to do with manned space flight, in 1969, because you could see the end of the Apollo program. We had already decided what to do with the residual hardware in what became known as the Skylab program. If something wasn't done, we were going to go out of the manned space flight business. That simple.

So the vice-president at the time, Spiro Agnew -- and this thing never really got advertised very much maybe because of that -- in any event, he chaired the Space Council and they worked for about six months and they looked at where this nation should go post Apollo, so-called post-Apollo planning. I'm sure those are in the records and you can go back and get them.

That Space Council looked finally at four major options. They looked at a manned Mars expedition, they looked at a follow-on lunar program, they looked at a low earth orbital infrastructure program, and they looked at getting out of the business. They looked at those four things.

They made the decision to have a low earth orbital infrastructure program. It wasn't we'll build a shuttle or we'll build a space station, you know. We will have a low earth orbital infrastructure program. It never got announced like Kennedy announced the lunar program, but that decision was made by the President on the advice of the Space Council.

Now, up until that time there had been a lot of debate in this country about whether space station should be a great, big, artificial-gravity rotating wheel launched on Nova-class boosters or whether it was to be a zero-G station built on orbit in modular form with something like the space shuttle. The desire for a zero-gravity, modular space station prevailed at that time. It was a commonsense, logical thing to do; but before you can go that way, you obviously have to have something called a space shuttle. You have to have a truck and a personnel carrier and a work machine to go up there and do that work.

Also, at the time the President was giving the head of NASA instructions to come down off the 3 1/2 percent spending that we had peaked at in Apollo, down to about 1 percent spending for the agency. As Jim Fletcher looked under his 1 percent spending -- with Apollo ongoing, with Skylab ongoing -- he felt that he couldn't have but $1 billion annual funding expended on low earth orbital infrastructure development.

We then undertook obviously to build the shuttle first and then the modular, zero-gravity space station second; and the low earth orbital infrastructure gave the nation a capability to operate from the surface of the earth up to 600 nautical miles, operating shuttles and space stations and interim upper stages that would take payloads from that low earth orbital up to geosynchronous orbit. As the thing evolved, we started with the shuttle; and the requirements for the shuttle were driven 99 percent by what we wanted to do to support the space station. It also happened to give the Air Force the kind of payload volume and the kind of capability they wanted, although they really wanted to be at higher orbits for their work.

So the Air Force came in and said we will plan to use the shuttle and we will also take on the task of building the interim upper stage, which was part of the low earth orbital infrastructure. So NASA embarked on the shuttle. It wasn't necessary to commit to a space station at that time because the shuttle had to be built and operational before you commit to space station, and the President at that time, Nixon, had other things on his mind. He didn't get up and make a great, big speech about low earth orbital infrastructure.

So now a lot of myths have grown up about we stumbled between space station and the orbiter and we wanted to do an orbiter this way and an orbiter that way. That's not the way it happened at all. It was pretty orderly planning. It was a decision to go to the low earth orbital infrastructure. Let's have a shuttle, then let's have a modular zero-gravity space station.

Once the Challenger accident occurred, the Air Force got off of the ship and stuck with their original vehicles, which I think was probably the right decision for them all along because the nature of their missions don't fit the shuttle quite that well but they could have done some of their work. But they actually developed the interim upper stage and they built a bunch of launch facilities at the West Coast that we ultimately phased out.

GEN. BARRY: Let me ask the following question based on a historical perspective. Can you give us an understanding of the design specifications for the orbiter to take debris hits? When you finally settled on the design after going through these ramifications of alternatives and finally settled on, as we know, the space shuttle system to be today, our question from the board repeatedly is: Was the space shuttle designed to accept debris hits from foam, either at the RCC or at the belly with the tiles?

MR. THOMPSON: The answer to that is no. The spec for the tank is that nothing would come off the tank forward of the 2058 ring frame and it was never designed to withstand a 3-pound mass hitting at 00 feet per second. That was never considered to be a design requirement.

MR. COHEN: You've got to recognize in the first early flights we were concerned about ice coming off the tank. That really was our big concern, was ice going to come off the tank, because we knew ice would do very serious damage. Ice would do serious damage.

MR. THOMPSON: But usually ice under insulation was our principal concern where you would get a crack in the insulation, you had cryopumping under there, you'd get ice formed up under it, and a chunk of ice and insulation come off. We must have -- Owen, you can estimate, 15 -- we had so many meetings on trying to make sure we didn't have ice, we called them the ice follies meetings.

MR. COHEN: And we still have an ice team today that goes out and inspects the vehicle before every flight.

MR. THOMPSON: I don't know what they're doing today. It was my understanding -- and you can correct me, Owen. I was pretty sure we did ultrasonic testing on the tank foam insulation, looking for any voids. We carefully did visual inspection. We put together a very comprehensive ice team that walked up and down the vehicle just before liftoff. We put the beanie cap on top of the tank to capture the cold exhaust gas to make sure no frost or ice built up there. We even talked one time about building a great, big building around the whole thing and environmental control it, but we decided that really wasn't probably necessary.

We paid an awful lot of attention to making sure nothing came off, because we knew if we fractured the carbon-carbon on the leading edge of the orbiter, it was a lost day. We could take a fair amount of damage on the silica tiles and still be all right, but it was a maintenance problem. So we worked very hard to make sure we did not have any foreign-object debris.

DR. SILVEIRA: You have to understand the exterior of the vehicle of the orbiter is glass. I mean, the coating on the tile is a silicate glass, and you have to treat it like that. So, yeah, impacts are not allowed.

MR. JEFFS: Let me hitchhike on that briefly, too. That is that it's kind of incongruous, when you look at the overall picture, the RCC panels are -- the bottom line, for example, the rear of the panels is not completely true. There's a little waviness in it which is just due to the way it comes off the tool and spring-back and so on; but when the tiles are matched to it, the tiles are delicately matched to mix those interfaces all the way along. With a graphite epoxy, the coefficients of expansion are such that you can maintain those shapes just right. Then we stand back and think, gee, there we go to great pains to kind of hand-tailor all of this stuff and then all of a sudden we're hitting it with debris. It just is two different worlds.

MR. THOMPSON: Well, let me comment. The silica tiles that are on the orbiter behind the carbon-carbon, in the damage testing and the testing we did on that during the program, in most cases the type of damage you would expect to get on those is not the kind of damage that kills you. Most of the time when you hit those tiles hard with something, they were fragile enough that you knocked the outer layer off but the inner layer where it's been densified against the two glue joints and the strain isolation plate, just a portion of the silica, the two glue joints and the strain isolation plate gives you enough thermal protection to make an entry. So people have gotten locked up on the fragile nature of the silica tiles. The silica tiles are fragile to damage, but they're actually pretty forgiving. You can take a lot of damage right there. You cannot take any damage that knocks a hole in the carbon-carbon leading edges.

MR. JEFFS: Well, let me add one thing to that. That is that they're a robust system from what their designed to do, and that's to take the heat loads. They are a little delicate here and there when it comes to like the coatings because the coatings are part of the radiating heat transfer. So the coatings are meant to be there, and it's also pretty critical on the front edges of that system so that you don't trip the boundary layer. You certainly don't want to trip the boundary layer on the front end of that thing.

So as Bob says, those tiles along the interface to the RCCs are also densified. So they're a higher density than the tiles further aft. So they're stronger. You do that, taking with it the higher thermal conductivity through the thing, and still maintain the bond line temperatures. So they are more rugged and they will, as he says, give you assurance you're going to get through even if you have some missing, but you don't want to do that and you don't want to nick them on that front end.

MR. COHEN: We were concerned early in the program when you would damage a tile and that tile damage at the bond line and that the heating then would cause what we call an unzippering effect where you actually damage the bond line and a lot of tiles would come off. That would be the case we were concerned about; but as Bob said, the tile is actually pretty forgiving with a reasonable type of hits. But you can't take large hits that really cause you a damage that would destroy the boundary layer.

MR. THOMPSON: Let me take you back on this and tell one story. We were doing some thermal testing of the silica tiles in a thermal wind tunnel out at Ames. We heated the air stream with some carbon heating elements and there was a test panel with several silica tiles put on it that would be put downstream and then you would hit it with this heat pulse in the aerodynamic wind tunnel there. We ran the tests on the silica tiles. Lockheed, which was the system manager for the silica tiles, ran these tests out at Ames, and the heating elements, the copper heating elements in the tunnel failed and they put a whole bunch of carbon shotgun-like particles in the air stream. They actually blew off probably 70 percent of the silica tiles, just like you would shoot it with a shotgun. They brought that to my office to show me what happened on that. I said, "Well, okay, that's fine but what happened to the temperature of the aluminum behind it for the re-entry heating pulse?"

They said, "Well, instead of 200 that we were looking for, it got up to 3 or 4 hundred degrees, but it didn't structurally fail."

I said, "That's the best test I've seen in a long time."

MR. JEFFS: Just a couple of notes on it. When you look at that wing after flight, it's fascinating to see where the transitions occur. You can see from the heating patterns under the bottom wing. You can see how far back that transition is. So you're laminar a long way back, which is very reassuring. Even if you had a nick along the front edge locally, it doesn't necessarily transition the boundary layer throughout the total wing. It could be just in the local air of the wing, and it would be probably be survivable. So we weren't really concerned with the zipper effect. Fletcher was really worried about that, but we didn't think that would occur.

MR. THOMPSON: Well, you don't want to leave the impression that if you trip the boundary layer, you would lose the vehicle.

MR. JEFFS: No, but I didn't say that. I said you could locally trip it and you could have higher heat transfer coefficients in that region but you're not going to necessarily lose the wing.

MR. COHEN: Let me ask you a question. You may be more familiar. Have you gone back and looked at Volume 10 now? Do they have a requirement in there for the size of debris?

GEN. BARRY: Volume 10.

MR. COHEN: Volume 10 would be the design specification --

DR. SILVEIRA: That's a Level 2.

MR. COHEN: Do they have a criteria in there?

GEN. BARRY: They do have a criterion, and it's like .006 foot pounds per hit. It's very, very small. It's almost minuscule to the point where it can't take hits, just like Dr. Silveira mentioned. So that's the puzzling aspect because, in reality, as you trace the hits on the orbiter from the very beginning, from the very first mission, they've averaged, you know, as high as 700 on STS 27 to 300 on STS 87 and almost every orbiter has averaged about 50 to 100 hits. So it's interesting to see that the design specification really was not to allow for any hits, although the reality has been it's been pretty durable for most of that; but the design specification is contrary to the reality.

MR. JEFFS: Weren't the majority of those coming off the runway?

DR. WIDNALL: What runway?

MR. JEFFS: Landing the thing. You get a lot on the runway. That runway is coarse.

MR. THOMPSON: Here again, Aaron was talking about a document that was called the 07700 series of documents. Those are the Level 2 documents that I controlled to put the specs across the program. Volume 10 was one of those specs, and that was where the 2058 ring frame came from. In any practical problem, it would be nice to meet all of your specs. In the real world, though, you know, I will sit here and let you shoot at me with a pop gun that's got a little cork in it that won't come half way over here all you want to; but if you pick up a .45 and shoot at me, I'm going to get the hell out of here. So you've got to have some judgment when you're operating a vehicle of this nature of what you're willing to live with and what you're not willing to live with. And that's hard to write in a specific spec and it's hard to live in an ideal spec world because you run into practical problems like popcorning of insulation.

MR. JEFFS: Let me say one more thing. I might have left the wrong impression here, too. That is, you know, first off with the RCC. We were always concerned about the RCC and the loads on the RCC. We spent extra money and extra time to go to the woven cloth, for example. We didn't go to the single filament stuff to take advantage of the load direction and all this jazz. We really went overboard to make that as strong as possible.

We went through the whole litany with McDonald on the problems they were having on trying to make a graphite tail for the F-15 or F-18. I don't know which one it was. They had a lot of problems with it relative to how you weave in the middle interfacing elements of the carbon-carbon. You can't just drill holes in carbon-carbon. So you've got to weave in the interfacing metal elements in order to attach it to the air frame. So they had special techniques that they had gone to to wrap it in like you tape-wrap a swollen ankle or something like that, to really get those pieces in there right. Went through all that stuff with them. So we really had a rugged RCC. That RCC, the Q alphas are, I don't know, 900 to 1100 something like that, pounds per foot. So they're taking a pretty good load up in that front end. So they're not wussies.

MR. THOMPSON: Well, they are strong; but they're still a ceramic. What you don't do is hit a ceramic with a real sharp, high-energy low-time blow. Anything going 700 feet per second, even if it's a soft piece of insulation, if you look at the force-time curve that we put onto that insulation, we didn't do a dead-chicken test. We knew well you could knock it off if you hit it with enough potential energy, kinetic energy.

MR. JEFFS: You guys mentioned the holes have been mentioned on the RCC. When I looked at the first flight back, up at Edwards, I was looking at boundary layer transitions pattern and stuff. I noticed on the underside of the wing that I could see occasionally a few holes. They looked almost like a circular hole. Completely circular. Almost like a hole that would be popped out of your porridge when a steam bubble come up out of a porridge, you know. I couldn't figure what those things were. I thought maybe we might have trapped water in the zip or something and we had gotten over the boiling temperature of water, which is like 160 or something like that at the altitude, and that we were building ourselves a little steam engine there and that might be accounting for the tiles occasionally popping off, which we couldn't figure out why they would occasionally come off. But we ran some tests and they ran some tests lately at Langley and they haven't verified that that's any condition at all. I noticed you said there some round holes on the RCC, or somebody was saying that there were some holes. We just don't know what the nature of those holes are. We had never seen those before. We had never seen any of those at testing.

GEN. HESS: One of the issues that's often discussed in the back rooms of the board is this thing about whether or not the shuttle is an operational vehicle. We wonder if y'all could share your opinions on that versus being an R&D vehicle.

MR. JEFFS: I've got a lot of heartburn I can share with you on that. You know Beggs wanted to declare the shuttle operational after about five or six flights. That was one of the reasons for the SPC. It was one of the reasons for the shuttle processing contract being given at the Cape. Our arguments or my arguments were that we were still learning about the machine and we still had a number of things to really sweat out before we completely understood it and all the characteristics and, therefore, the development contractor should be maintained strongly in that act.

MR. THOMPSON: George, you need to ask him what an operational vehicle is. Define it. A vehicle that flies to earth orbit will never be operational in a sense a 747 is operational, if that's your definition of an operational vehicle.

MR. JEFFS: So we were as operational as we ever had a space machine, I guess, because we had flown it that many times.

MR. THOMPSON: But it will always be a risky endeavor.

MR. JEFFS: It's a machine that doesn't have the same wear and tear as an aircraft. I mean, we're not landing it ten times a day or what have you. It does take heavy loads on launch. It takes thermal loads on re-entry. So it's different. It doesn't do much on orbit. It's pretty easy for it on orbit. But it is not a hard-driven machine from an operational point of view and it's more like a helicopter.

MR. THOMPSON: You're still hitting it with 4 million pounds of thrust.

MR. JEFFS: Well, you only do it every once in a while. You only do it twice a year rather than ten times a day. I wanted to add one more thing to it, though. That is, further, it's like a helicopter, and even more so, in that when you get it to the ground, you can do anything you want to it. You can re-examine it. You can change, add to the tiles, fix the tile problems and so on. So you're rebuilding the machine between flights.

MR. COHEN: No matter what you say, the hardware, the process, whatever, needs to take -- you need to have tender, loving care of it.

MR. THOMPSON: Always will. You need a development mentality organization managing it.

MR. COHEN: It's a hostile environment you go into and return to.

MR. JEFFS: With all respect to Beggs, though, he wanted to -- the other side of that argument, the flip side obviously, is that if you're the development contractor, you're continually making changes to it. So stop making changes, guys, to make it better all the time. That's where he was coming from.

MR. THOMPSON: I've heard that all my life: "Don't make changes." If it's about to break, you better change it.

MR. JEFFS: You've got to have those kind of eyes looking at it so they can see ahead of time before it's about to break.

ADM. GEHMAN: I'd like to ask Mr. Morris and Mr. Silveira if you'd comment on this, whether it's an operational or a developmental vehicle.

MR. MORRIS: Well, I would go back to Bob's question. How do you define operational? I think, in my experience, any high-performance aircraft is continually being inspected, is continually being modified. They're being updated with glass cockpits and other things that are systems upgrades. But any high-performance vehicle is continually being modified. I think the shuttle, although I haven't been involved with it for many years now, has been modified more than most operational aircraft, things you call operational; but I don't think there's a difference in the amount of changes made. I don't think there's any difference in the philosophy of the way you manage the program or operate the vehicle. I think a high-performance vehicle, be it in space or in the air, continues to be something you are developing and you're learning more about as you operate it.

MR. THOMPSON: I think it's also somewhat delusionary to think you can start with a new sheet of paper and build a new vehicle and it won't have any problems and it will be easy to operate and it will be cheap to operate and everything will be fine. That's always what you come out of Phase A with; but once you build it -- and particularly if it's going to sit on the surface of the earth and then accelerate to ,000 miles an hour, stand re-entry heating, land on a runway -- you're going to have to give it a lot of attention.

MR. JEFFS: As you say in the aircraft business, it's operational on condition. It's an on-conditional airplane, but you've got to have the right eyes looking at it to know when that on-condition time occurs.

ADM. GEHMAN: Mr. Silveira, any comment?

DR. SILVEIRA: You know, like with any vehicle, you have to continue to scrutinize the results of every flight. You know, we had many thousand hours on 737s when we had to go back and modify the actuator and the rudders because it didn't really work the way we thought it did on that. I think that's the thing you have to continually do with any aircraft.

Now, as the aircraft gets more mature, of course, you can back off some on the scrutiny; but where the shuttles have actually very, very limited amount of flight time, then you've really got to pay a lot of attention to it. You say: Are they operational? To a certain extent, yes, but you still need an awful lot of engineering scrutiny to examine what the results were of the last flight.

MR. THOMPSON: You have to also recognize that a rocket engine, you're essentially building a very hot fire in a cardboard box; and you have to do it very carefully. If you get a little bit off on your cooling paths and so forth, you burn up your box.

MR. JEFFS: We've come a long way. We didn't really know that much about the regen system with the SSMEs. As a matter of fact, we had a lot of trouble going through the gates to get the engine started. The guy I worked for at the time that ran Rockwell used to say, "How in the world are you going to get three engines started at the same time if you can't start one?" That was a very good question. We've come a long way and we've learned a lot about the engines. Where we found shortfalls -- or not shortfalls -- but marginal conditions and we were operating with low margins, those are things that have been worked on. Changed. Addressed. The pumps and so on.

MR. THOMPSON: And the digital controller.

MR. JEFFS: And that's the kind of whole process that should go right along with the evolution of the whole system. Someday it will be even more on-condition in toto, but it will still have those things in it that we learn from the operation of a system like this in space, which is new. We don't have the aircraft background that we had.

DR. HALLOCK: You mentioned Volume 10. I've had some many sleepless nights looking at, trying to understand what was going on, and looking at this evolution over time. You also mentioned that one of the criteria you had was that you didn't want to have any strikes, foam strikes, is the way we were talking about it at that time. But how about the ambient environment itself? I mean, things like what you might expect in that when you get up into orbit, such as space debris and micrometeorites and other types of things that could also cause damage to the craft?

MR. THOMPSON: I would comment that we did not know enough about the orbital environment to practically say what kind of impacts you should take from orbit. So, frankly, we did not spend a lot of time trying to design the orbiter to take hits while on orbit from unidentified objects.

MR. COHEN: We did have a criteria -- and I believe I'm right -- the criteria in the orbiter that you could have a penetration or an opening of a half an inch or so diameter and have makeup volume, makeup gas.

MR. THOMPSON: You're talking about the environmental control system.

MR. COHEN: Yeah, environmental control system. So the crew could get their suits on and do a de-orbit. But that was not for space debris. That was just for a penetration.

MR. JEFFS: We did have the specs on particle size impingement on the windows and what have you. So the windows are all designed for that.

MR. THOMPSON: For a certain particle size. But you could certainly get above that.

MR. COHEN: Sure. As Bob said, I don't recall orbital debris being discussed very much.

MR. THOMPSON: I don't think you would really know enough today to put a good spec on a system flying low earth orbit.

MR. JEFFS: We had some data from Apollo that we used.

MR. THOMPSON: It's going to have to be a judgment call for someone.

DR. HALLOCK: One of the things you hear a lot of discussions going on at this point is: Is there someway that one could make a repair on orbit? Were those kinds of issues addressed back in those times?

MR. THOMPSON: They were discussed. They were never addressed in a serious way.

MR. JEFFS: Well, we were pretty serious about trying to figure out how the heck you might replace a tile. There's a young lady in the bowels of NASA named Bonnie Dunbar -- or Donnie Bunbar or whatever they called Bonnie -- and she's a Ph.D. in ceramics. She was right in the middle of the tile operations. She worked for us a while up at Palmdale. We often discussed how in the heck if we look at the detailed process of what the guys had to do just to get a tile on and how you would do that with gloves, you know, in an EVA situation. And it's not easy. I'll tell you it's not easy. You know, you've got to pull-test it and you've got to do lots of things with it to verify that you've got -- you might take some shortcuts if you just had to make a repair in orbit, I suppose. I suppose it's doable, but it's very tough. Now, how you replace an RCC panel? That's something else.

MR. THOMPSON: First of all, I noticed in the paper a lot of conversation about looking at the shuttle while on orbit. We did look at the shuttle while on orbit for the first shuttle flight, using the Air Force resources. It was more from a we would just like to know ahead of time whether we've got some potential problem in front of us, not because we had any ability to go inside and do very much about it.

MR. COHEN: Those things are documented. I don't recall. But the real issue is going EVA and trying to get to the various parts of the vehicle. Even if you had a kit, it's very difficult. With the space station there, it may be another thing.

MR. THOMPSON: You could do some things like that. It's a matter of whether that's a good expenditure of your resources with the probability of what you can really do that's practical.

GEN. HESS: I'm kind of curious if you would characterize for me the role of the safety organization in the structure that you had back in the Sixties and Seventies in terms of how it integrated itself with the system development.

MR. COHEN: Let me say a little bit from the orbiter point of view on the changes. In our Change Board and my daily meetings, SR&QA had a person sit in on every one of our meetings; and I think that was the same thing at Rockwell, also, from the orbiter point of view. Somebody was there. Again, very much as the engineer was a check and balance, SR&QA was a check and balance because in that case I believe Marty Raines was the head of SR&QA and he reported to Chris Kraft. So again, if SR&QA had an issue with what we were doing, just as engineering or operations, there was a check and balance at my level.

MR. THOMPSON: Well, I think I'd comment this way. Within the program, there was a very active Safety, Reliability & Quality Assurance presence and activity. We did all the usual failure mode and effects analysis. We did all the development of critical items list. I signed off on probably several hundred critical items, recognizing if that item failed, we'd lose the vehicle. Safety was spread throughout. Safety, Reliability & Quality Assurance was spread throughout the entire program.

We looked very carefully at whether we wanted to do what we called the nines business, whether we wanted to attempt to do statistical quality assurance kind of things. In looking at the spectrum across the shuttle systems, the part of the system where the nines kind of approach made sense in avionics and things like that was a relatively small part of the overall system. So we did not go into a formal statistical qualification program where we could get nines that had some meaning to tell us which part of the system was relatively good and which part wasn't. We tried that on Apollo and gave up on it, more or less. A lot of consideration was given to what we called the formal or statistical safety and quality analysis, and we decided it was not worthwhile to try to lay that on the program.

How you put the statistical number to an O-ring failing is pretty hard to come by; and if you have a lot of garbage in, you get a lot of garbage out. So I think you have to be very careful. If you're building television sets by the thousands and taking data on this resistor and that resistor and it tells you which resistor is causing your televisions to quit, it probably has some value; but when you look at most of the systems on the shuttle, you cannot do the kind of numerical numbers of tests to give you, under a properly controlled condition, any kind of valid input data. And once the people get those nines, they really maneuver them, whether they have any real meaning or not.

Owen, you may want to comment on this.

MR. MORRIS: You know, if you take this and go to the structures, which is really kind of where we're interested today, we did use fracture mechanics, fracture analysis. We did have margins in the vehicle; and that's the way, again, aircraft are designed. Structure has to be qualified to the level of the margin, and then it has a reliability of 1 in your nines approach.

MR. JEFFS: Structure is tough, but we also have redundant load paths. So if we had one failure, we had a second path in order to take the load.

MR. THOMPSON: In some parts of the system.

MR. JEFFS: Wherever we could.

MR. THOMPSON: For example, we went to safety factor of 2 on the solid rocket boosters. Typically the Air Force in their ballistic programs were using either 1 1/4 or 1.4. We went to a safety factors of 2 on these SRBs in the amount of insulation we put in, in the structure, design allowables and so forth, which is relatively high for these kinds of systems; but we did it because we didn't have a backup for the SRB. If the SRB failed, you lost a system and we knew that. We didn't get there by nines; we got there by safety factors, as best we could.

MR. COHEN: Design philosophy, at least. Margin in the design, whether it be electronics or it be structures, is important. Redundancy and margin. I would say margins first and then redundancy. If the redundancy adds to the margin, then it's good. If the redundancy doesn't have margin, then it's not good. So that's what we really looked for was margin in your design, the deterministic type of analysis rather than probabilistic analysis.

MR. JEFFS: The tiles in the design was considered for 100 missions with a factor of 4. So a factor of 4 was on top of that 100 or so. That was considered in the design. The orbiters were built by MCRs. The MCR is a Master Change Record. I signed every Master Change Record, and I looked for lots of things in those MCRs and one of then was safety. But we had organizations that were tuned and they came out of the Apollo program. They were looking for the what-ifs. They were looking for failure modes and how to recover from failure modes. So therefore, in the design, how do you put something in when you don't have those failure modes? So we had a very sensitive organization to that; and that was partially schooled into them from interfacing with the Mission Control, for example, in the Apollo stuff, on how to respond and react to in-flight emergencies. So a lot of that basic background was in the fundamental design as best we could put.

MR. THOMPSON: We haven't mentioned sneak circuits. We did all the typical sneak circuit analysis work. We did all of the kinds of things we had learned to do in the previous programs to prevent the rocket going off when you hooked the battery up and that sort of thing.

MR. JEFFS: All the golden chute things and everything.

ADM. GEHMAN: All right. We have a lot more questions and we're going to go on for at least another 90 minutes, but we're going to take about a ten-minute break here so we can all pay attention and be in comfort while we're doing this.

(Recess taken)

ADM. GEHMAN: All right. Ladies and gentlemen, we're ready to resume.

Gentlemen, thank you very much for your very forthcoming answers to our questions. We appreciate it.

Dr. Widnall, if you're ready, go ahead.

DR. WIDNALL: I'm going to ask an engineering question. Given that at that period of time that composite materials were sort of new -- in fact, not to make a pun of it, they sort of were at the leading edge -- I sort of would like to understand what kind of testing was done on the RCC panels. For example, was there a lot of fatigue testing done? Did you have in-flight unsteady pressure loads data that you could use for fatigue testing? Did you cycle the panels through a vibratory environment followed by heating and ultraviolet or whatever-else-is-up-there environment? Did you rip them apart? Did you impact them with small pellets? What kind of testing was done on the RCC? It's clearly an important issue for the design of the vehicle.

MR. JEFFS: Let me tell you what little I know, and a lot of things I don't know the details of. First off, the RCC panels, I'm sure, in the process, were subject to all the rigors of qualification of everything else on the program; and that included structural testing of all major elements. So the RCC panel was certainly a major element. The interface of the RCC panel to the wing structure itself was kind of a critical area. The whole issue of water in graphite epoxy and how it might play in the game. The whole issue of the specs re salt water, et ceter. Now, whether they vibrated the panels or not, I don't know and I don't have the documentation to identify it, but I would be very surprised if there weren't detailed documentation of the structural testing of those panels and the load interfaces to the wing. I don't remember anything in the way of impacting those panels with high-velocity particles or something like that. I don't remember that, but the rest of it I do recall that there was.

DR. WIDNALL: What about testing to destruction? I think one of the issues that we are amused by is that the RCC panels seem to have broken right along the center line of the leading edge. So were the panel destruct-tested by putting loads on them to see where, in fact, they would break?

MR. COHEN: Testing we did on the panels. On the RCC panels.

MR. JEFFS: I'm surprised that it would break in that area.

DR. WIDNALL: I know. I was surprised. I have no explanation for this.

MR. JEFFS: As I said, that cloth is woven cloth.

DR. WIDNALL: No, right along the leading edge, they broke. I have no explanation for that, but I wondered whether structural tests had been done.

DR. SILVEIRA: I don't recall.

DR. WIDNALL: I know they're very expensive panels. So obviously...

MR. JEFFS: Yeah, what we could test, we tested; and we tested to know what kind of margins we had. We tested them certainly up to yield; and whether we went to ultimate on those panels, I don't know. But I'm sure that the Boeing guys would have that in their files.

ADM. GEHMAN: Someone else want to make a comment?

DR. SILVEIRA: Don Curry was subsystem manager on the RCC, would be familiar with what testing we did. As I recall, we took a number of panels to destruction. I don't remember seeing a failure like that, at least in the stuff that he showed me.

MR. JEFFS: We had material we could work with. You know, there was a long process that they went through at Vaught to develop the panels because the panel were pyrolyzed, as you know, and you build them on this tool that has to go in the oven with the panel, and then we would get spring-back. So they went through a lot of steps before they got the right spring-back in those panels. So they had panels to work with; and Vaught, in general, did a very good job on those panels overall. So I'm sure that they tested those.

MR. COHEN: I'll refer to this document.

DR. WIDNALL: Thanks a lot, Aaron.

MR. COHEN: It does talk about -- this is the space shuttle technical conference and Don Curry --

DR. WIDNALL: I would love to get a copy of that.

MR. COHEN: It does talk about the early design challenges, the leading edge. Of course, one of the big issues was the coating, the coating and the degradation of the coating and how the panels degraded with the degradation of the coating. Now, it doesn't go into a tremendous amount of detail in here, but it does give you an overall view. This was written by Don Curry, and Don Curry is the subsystem manager. I don't have the data in front of me, but I'm almost sure we did take the panels to do some structural testing on the panels. I don't have it here but --

DR. SILVEIRA: The RCC was really a big technical challenge, as far as building the panels. You know, when we started doing it, John Yardley made a comment to me one day. He said, "If I ever hear about delamination, it's going to be your job." Well, LTV actually did, I think, a superior job in putting it together. They really did. You had to pack the panels in carbon retorched to form and the like and there were very, very few quality problems that we experienced during the development of the panels.

MR. COHEN: They did Eddy current testing and sonic testing of the panels in the manufacturing process.

MR. THOMPSON: There was never any thought, though, that those panels would withstand a 20,000 foot pound kinetic energy strike. They were not designed for that. The whole intent was to not let it happen. You could not set out and design -- I wouldn't know how to design the leading edge of that wing to take a 20,000 foot pound kinetic energy strike.

DR. SILVEIRA: Not many airplanes are designed that way.

MR. THOMPSON: I think we may have had to abandon the program, had that been a requirement.

GEN. BARRY: I'd like to address the issue of the design of the space shuttle itself insofar as life span is concerned. Right now in our readings, of course, the original design was to fly 100 times in ten years. So that's ten times a year per shuttle. Here we are at 2003. We know the Columbia was on its 28th flight, not 100, and certainly not within ten years. So we've entered an era that the board has pretty well identified as an era of reusable vehicles in an aging space platform in an R&D or development based environment. So let's say aging spacecraft in an R&D environment, for practical purposes. I'd like to get your perspective on how long you anticipated in the original design on how long the shuttle would last, in light of the fact that NASA has announced now that the shuttle will fly until 2020. Can I get a perspective on life span for the space shuttle?

MR. THOMPSON: Let me comment. Then I'd like to have some of the other people talk. We debated a lot about what kind of a number to put in the spec for that. Frankly, we could never find very much that was sensitive to that number in the kind of application we were talking about for shuttle.

You know, 100 times would be a minor load for an airplane or airplane structure or fuselage and so forth. We put it in there to help ferret out any problems that people might come back and say, "Hey, it won't go 100 times." I don't remember anyone coming back and saying that was a constraint for anything.

I would think, with reasonable attention and oversight and proper upgrading of subsystems and replacement of systems as appropriate, I don't see any reason why the shuttle couldn't last many, many years. You know we have B-52s out there flying after 30 or 40 years. We've got some T-38s at Ellington that have got how many years on them. So that 100 number we put in there was never much of a driver to us on the program. We didn't quite understand what we were trying to control with it in the first place very thoroughly, and it was more put in there to see if it drive anything out. And I don't ever remember anyone coming and asking for an option on the 100-cycle lifetime.

Owen, you may want to add more to this.

MR. MORRIS: I don't think, in my memory at least, that we ever really addressed any issue that said we have to have 5 more pounds or we have to do something to be able to reach 100 missions. I keep going back to aircraft; but, again, if you look at T-38s, yeah, they're still flying. They're flying okay. Now, they've had some wing problems. There have been cracks. The cracks are carefully monitored on a per-flight basis or every ten flights, whatever the spec is on that, and you continue to operate. You know, I think you can do the shuttle the same way.

MR. JEFFS: Let me say a couple of things about it. What we did on both Apollo and shuttle, we did have age life critical item identification. So we identified all the items that we knew about in the system that were age life critical. For example, all the rings, the N204 and all those seals were on that age life list. There are all the pyros. The pyros were also bootstrapped so that you fire pyros every six years from the same lot to see that, in fact, you still had life in that pyro which could change.

I think the specs for the review of the orbiter after every so many years, there are certain items called out to look at specifically in those; and some of those were kind of age related in the thinking when they went into that review spec. It's kind of like the 3,000-hour turbine engine or something like that. They're in that overhaul spec requirement.

I think the rest of it, as you say, it was a development item. We didn't know everything, too, that might have some characteristics re aging. So a lot of that is as required as we go through and look at the spacecraft. Certainly, you know, I think about this ofttimes at night because I own and fly helicopters a long way and what I do in those helicopters is far less than what we do on that shuttle in the way of looking at it very carefully to see what is aging as we go through the process, particularly on the thermal protection system.

MR. COHEN: The real issue on extending the life would be the obsolescence of the subsystems, the replacement of parts and the computers and this type of thing. Of course, we did upgrade the cockpit; and really obsolescence of hardware and replacement of hardware is probably one of the biggest issues, I would think.

MR. JEFFS: Let me say another thing. One thing that worried me was the screed. The screed worried me on the wing. I was worried about screed from the point of view of were we introducing something here that could, in fact, be sort of a zipper kind of effect. So I specifically went after that through the years; and the guys convinced me that there was no aging identifiable, that we had a true, solid bond in the screed on that wing. So that's one of the kinds of things you look at from an aging point of view.

ADM. GEHMAN: If I could follow up on that, some things age by how many times they've been used, like cycling an aircraft, but then there's also some things that chronologically age. Carbon-reinforced panels and things like that age by stress, but they also age chronologically. If you had an RCC panel and you left it out in the breezes of the Atlantic Ocean and you never flew it, it would deteriorate. But wiring ages and wiring insulation ages. And you mentioned seals and things like that. They obviously age. But there are a number of critical items on the shuttle which, when you get to the 20th anniversary and you're thinking about flying it another 20 years, even if they've been properly maintained, it does occur to us that there are a number of critical systems that have to be looked at very, very carefully. Wiring comes to my mind. Wiring insulation.

MR. THOMPSON: Then again, you still have to ask yourself am I safer to continue to do that or do I embark on building a new vehicle, which one puts me into more risk. Frankly, the vehicle you have experience on, if you're looking at it at that level and watching those kinds of things, you may be safer sticking with the B-52.

MR. JEFFS: Let me say something about wiring. After the Apollo fire, we redesigned the Apollo; and the wiring in that Apollo was superb. I mean, it's better than any airplane I've ever seen, by far. That same wiring, all those wiring specs and so on, were carried over into the orbiter. So it's not just a matter of redundancy in the wiring and separate routing of the wiring; it's the detailed quality of the wiring itself and the combing of the wiring and the ties of the wiring and the curvatures and everything else that are all carried over directly into that shuttle. So there may be wiring problems there in the insulation, for example, in certain areas and it should be looked at, but in general you're starting out with a wiring set that is far superior to most of those that you're normally familiar with.

ADM. GEHMAN: Let me ask a question.

MR. JEFFS: May I say one more thing there?

ADM. GEHMAN: Absolutely.

MR. JEFFS: On the panels, the RCC panels. We were always worried about water in the RCC panels because, you know, graphite epoxy is sensitive to water. You get water in it and you're going to lose properties of the graphite epoxy -- and it is graphite epoxy, after all. So it always worried me that we should take a special look at those panels, and I think the guys were doing that. For example, in the Columbia I think those had just gone through a recycling back at the plant, as I understood it. I was always worried in that hashed-up field that we've got between those bodies that we might get some occasional buffeting on those panels and might be working the RCC panels at the interface to the structure itself. I don't know whether that's true or not. There's no way to tell, you know; but it is one of those kind of things that would contribute to aging in that you get a lot of cycles on that joint.

ADM. GEHMAN: That's a line that we're curious about. For example, the RCC is a pretty tough piece of structure but one wonders, after it's been heated to 2000 degrees two dozen times or three dozen times, what are the changes in its properties. That's one of the things we would like to look at.

MR. JEFFS: You've got some RCC panels back, didn't you?

ADM. GEHMAN: Oh, yes.

MR. JEFFS: They went through kind of an unusual environment, but you might get some information along those lines.

ADM. GEHMAN: We're going to do things like shoot foam at them and things like that at 00 feet per second.

Let me change the subject here a little bit and go back to the original design here again, the Seventies again, and talk about weight. Weight was one of the issues that you all wrestled with in order that you could get enough payload up to make it worthwhile, and the history of the program shows a lot of concern about weight -- the weight of the vehicle, the weight of the payload, and a number of steps which were taken to lighten the vehicle and to thereby increase what it could carry.

Certainly, as a layman, one of the things that struck my attention was the decision to stop painting the ET because you could save 375 pounds worth of paint. So you get the impression that the concerns about the weight of the vehicle as it developed and the weight of the payload it could deliver into orbit was always on your mind as you were watching weight at all times. Could you describe the history of that process and, am I correct, was this a big concern that you were watching all the time?

MR. THOMPSON: Well, let me comment on that. Anyone who designs a vehicle to go to orbit will have to be careful about weight. Getting 99 percent of the weight to orbit isn't acceptable. So one of the things we struggled with was how to, first of all, select the weight targets and how to allocate the weight among the elements, what kind of weight to hold in reserve at the Level 2 or the program manager's level and how to manage weight over the lifetime of the program like this.

As we got underway in the development program, we intentionally phased the startup of different elements based on several considerations; but weight affected some of this. We started the rocket engines for the orbiter first because we felt that was the most difficult development cycle. Several months or almost a year later, we started the orbiter development; and, of course, all during that time we were doing the systems engineering level things, doing the wind tunnel tests of the total system, doing the overall early design things that begins to see how much a design, as it matures, might meet the weight target you put in it to start with.

We deliberately delayed the start of the external tank until we were pretty far along on the engine and the orbiter so that we could then size the tank, because the amount of propellant and the ISP of the propellant tells you what you can take to orbit. We then started the SRBs last, and we actually left some growth. If you look at the SRBs today, unless someone's done something I haven't heard about, there's about 2 feet on the front end of the SRBs where you could add more SRB propellant if you really had to. Now, you only get a 1-for-8 gain on the SRBs; but there was still that kind of consideration as we got into weight.

Now, once you have gotten into the program well enough to where you then can have pretty good confidence on your allocations to the different project elements, you still keep a certain amount of weight reserve at Level 2. Then if one of the element managers begins to complain that he's got a problem he'd like to fix but there's a weight constraint -- I can remember in one of our ice follies tests the tank project manager wanted me to give him relief from ice forming on the LOX line because it was going to take too much weight to fix it and a little bit of ice isn't going to hurt you. I said, "No, you cannot have any ice on the LOX line and I'll give you 500 pounds to go fix it." And he went and fixed it.

Now, did weight make us do anything dumb? I don't think so. Did we have to manage weight from Day 1? Absolutely. The 65,000 pounds, 100 nautical miles due east, when we got to the point where we had to trade a little bit off late in the development program, we did; but then we got it back. Fairly early in the program, we went to the fusion-bonded titanium thrust structure in the orbiter because we picked up a good block of weight and we thought it was a good thing to do, not because we were in so much trouble we had to do it. But we had to do it -- I mean, we did it to pick up that weight.

As far as I know, they quit painting the tank after I left the program. Painting the tank gives you a little bit of advantage to the external surface, but the number that I remembered was 700 pounds of paint on the tank. As far as I know, they quit painting the tank more to save money and it wasn't really necessary rather than that they were in any kind of critical weight bind.

We put moderately tight but reasonable weight targets, and I cannot excuse a single dumb thing we did on weight.

Owen, you maybe want to comment at a systems level.

MR. MORRIS: Actually I think you're right, Bob. We did have a weight margin all the way through. As I remember, the tank decision to take the paint off the tank -- and this was after I left, but I was associated with it peripherally a little bit -- I think at the same time we quit machining the tank after we sprayed it. Initially there was a machine job; you actually machined the foam. This left a much more porous surface. At the time that it was decided not to machine it anymore, you then had a hard finish on the outside of the foam; and the paint was no longer needed. And the tank guys at that time, I think, had some weight problem and that was a good trade-off to trade that.

MR. THOMPSON: I do remember one time in discussing with J. Bob Thompson, the engine program manager, some concerns he was having. I asked him specifically. I said, "J. R., if I give you another 1,000 pounds of weight, is there anything you want to do differently?"

He said, "No, I don't want another 1,000 pounds of weight. I don't need it. I don't want it."

MR. JEFFS: Let me add a couple of things. One of the reasons that the aircraft falls through as far it does on landing is the short forward landing gear. One of the reasons for that is to make sure that the weight was minimum of that landing gear. So we looked for saving weight everyplace we could on this machine. It's characteristic of all the space programs, as Bob said. On the MCRs that I talked about, which are thousands of them, every one of them has a place on it for how much weight this change adds to the system and which drawings carry them. So it was pervasive, and it was designed that way to be sensitive of the weight.

MR. COHEN: From Day 1 in the orbiter project, we were concerned about weight and we had a weight problem, but as Bob said and George said, I don't recall doing anything that was irresponsible because of weight.

Of course, that heritage came from the Apollo program. You talk about a weight program. Owen was the aluminum module program manager, and we didn't get off the lunar surface unless we get to some real fancy footwork on reducing the weight of the lunar module. On the command module we had to take weight out because of the parachute hang weights. So we had weight problems on every program, but I don't think it caused us to do anything that was irresponsible.

MR. JEFFS: As far as Bob's comment on the weight side, the element of the system that has worried a lot of us from the beginning the most is, of course, the engines, the SSMEs. We're always been concerned that that was probably the place that if we ever had any problems, that's where we might have them. Of course, we had years of development of engines at the bottom of flame pits and so on, as we went through that development, to understand how sensitive and how critical that element was.

One day Sam Phillips and I were sitting together at a meeting at Rocketdyne and they were talking about the weights on every individual component of the engine. We thought that was the right thing to do as far as the requirements were concerned; but we thought, gosh, if we had to allocate the weights, we would probably add a little bit more to the engine side somewhere here, guys. But that's the only area of weight allocation that I could see. We didn't have any problems with embracing that concept on the orbiter itself.

ADM. GEHMAN: Thank you. Another design parameter that historians have written about is the requirement for reusability. For example, as you are well aware, re-entry vehicles prior to this had had, for example, ablator-type coatings on them which were, of course, gone when they came back but --

MR. JEFFS: Not true. They weren't gone. Some of it was gone.

ADM. GEHMAN: They were used.

MR. JEFFS: They were used. I spent a lot of time trying to convince NASA to shave off those ablators to fly again. They were over-thick.

ADM. GEHMAN: They were well used when they came back. But the reusability parameters drove a number of things. Well, I'll let you describe for me what kinds of things it drove, but the history tells us that it drove such things as TPS systems which could be taken apart in little sections so you only had to rework little sections at a time and things like that. I don't know if that was driven by reusability or not. You can correct me on that. Again, going back in your experience, how was the reusability requirement characterized in your decision-making and your engineering design work?

MR. THOMPSON: Well, again, let me start off. At the systems level when we got into the early Phase A part of the program, full reusability was leveled on the program as a program requirement, under a perception that that would make it a more cost-effective program, particularly in the cost-per-flight regime. Of course, that was coming into a space business where staging and expendability had been a fundamental part of flying to space. One of the reasons the early system could go to space was because you would stage. You'd go part of the way and throw off weight. That even helped explore the South Pole when they went down there.

So we accepted reusability during Phase A and came up, as I talked earlier, with the two-stage fully-reusable vehicle; but as we got into Phase B and particularly began to look at the details, when you've quit cartooning and gotten down to the specifics of designing and building and basing your reputation on something, then you begin to ask the question, does it really make sense to do it that way. I used to make a kind of simplistic argument that if expendability didn't make sense, there wouldn't be any Dixie cups around. You know, everyone would wash their cups and reuse them.

So there are systems that are more cost effective if you throw part of the system away. Particularly as we looked at putting the cryogenic propellants inside these vehicles and you had to think about insulating those tanks, making a good thermos bottle inside that tank and accommodating a minus 30-degree liquid that's going to shrink that tank. I've got to shrink that tank 6 or 8 inches and it's still part of my structure.

Putting cryogenic tankage within the aerodynamic envelope of the vehicle is an extremely difficult job. I don't think we've even done it to this day. So it began to make a lot of sense, at least to me and lots of others when we got into Phase B, to look at throwing part of the system away. The first thing we did was take the LOX out of the orbiter and then we took the hydrogen out of the orbiter and then we looked at, well, if we did that, we got the orbiter down to a size where we didn't need this kind of booster and this booster had a hell of a lot of complexity to it and maybe if we want to meet the national funding level, this is a better way to go than that way and might even be better if we had all the money in the world.

So reusability had a significant impact at the broad systems level and the fact that we put the propellant in an external tank and threw it away, in my opinion, was probably the best -- and I would even defend today -- the best overall systems level decision we made. I think even if you were starting a system today with today's technology, you might come to the same conclusion.

Now, reusability, once we decided to partially reuse the boosters by fishing them out of the ocean and cleaning them out and so forth, brought some concerns to us, particularly as it affected the gimbaling of the nozzles on the SRBs. You have to worry about the APU and the gimbaling systems and so forth after you parachute them into the ocean. So that reusability was concerned; but the fact that you got them and looked at the O-rings and things of that nature were some pluses.

Reusability on the orbiter? I never remember the fact that we were going to use the orbiter over and over gave us any unique set of problems that we could have avoided by throwing something away. Throwing the tank away, I think, was a great thing. Partially reusing the SRBs made a lot of sense; and reusing the orbiter, particularly with the three expensive engines in the back end, made a hell of a lot of sense.

MR. COHEN: Well, you question is, if we didn't have reusability on the orbiter whether we could come up with a different thermal protection system. I think that's where you were going with it. I don't know the answer to that, but I do know that if you had tried to use something like an ablator, it would be very, very heavy. You know, just to give you an example, if I recall correctly, the Apollo ablator was something like 100 pounds per cubic foot and the tile is something like 9 pounds per cubic foot, 20 pounds per cubic foot. So if you tried to use an ablator on the orbiter, although we have ablators now that are much lighter, you would probably never get off the pad. But I don't think that you would have come up with a different thermal protection system.

MR. JEFFS: The whole beauty of the system is the reusability. I mean, you get the spacecraft back. That's the first time we got a spacecraft back really to speak of, unless you got some pieces of it back on parachute or something for other reasons. It's the first time we got the engines back. Usually the engines guys bury their sins in the Atlantic Ocean out there. That's what ELVs are. We don't do that; we get it back.

If you try to minimize cost to orbit, you get your airplane back, get your hardware back. So these guys got as much of the hardware back as they possibly could; and the orbiter, bless its heart, is the most beautiful example of reusability. That whole reusability was facilitated by that radiated heat shield to get back. And getting the engine back was an added bonus. So you want to get your avionics back which are expensive, your engines back which are expensive --

MR. COHEN: Fuel cells.

MR. JEFFS: -- your air frame back. And the heat shield makes that possible.

MR. THOMPSON: But had we made you put all of that cryogenic propellant internal to the orbiter, you'd have had a hell of a bunch of ablator.

MR. JEFFS: Much more difficult.

ADM. GEHMAN: Thank you. But tell me something. I mean, I understand what you're saying, the fact that we have this wonderful reusable machine is a work of art and a work of engineering. It's an engineering feat. But you are trading some things. For example, you are lifting three 8,000-pound engines into orbit for no good reason other than reusability.

MR. THOMPSON: You've got to go to orbit with three 8,000-pound engines, no matter what you do. You can't get there without those engines. Now, you can throw them away or you can bring them back. Now, the orbiter has to have some capability to bring ,000-pound engines that wouldn't be there; but you've got to go to orbit with those engines.

ADM. GEHMAN: Just as you have to have the ET to supply the engines with fuel.

MR. COHEN: Right.

ADM. GEHMAN: The ET doesn't go to orbit.

MR. THOMPSON: Well, it goes, for all practical purposes, within a feet per second to orbit. Then you use the OMS to kick it on into it. We did that so we could put it in the Indian Ocean where it didn't bother people.

ADM. GEHMAN: I'm not in any way diminishing the engineering feat of building the orbiter, but there are design trades that were made in here. For example, if you decided you wanted to reuse the engines or for some reason it was a requirement of the system that the engines be part of the reusable cycle, you now are in the position of having to lift the engines and bring the engines back. It makes the mass of the orbiter higher on re-entry by 10 percent or something like that.

MR. JEFFS: That's the price of a two-way airplane.

ADM. GEHMAN: That's correct. I assumed that this was all debated and there were people that had positions on both sides.

MR. THOMPSON: It' still being debated.

DR. SILVEIRA: I think involved in that, of course, was the operational cost of the shuttle in itself and then what you want to do is to return the high-dollar cost components like the engine and the avionics and the like. So as a result, you place the main engines in the orbiter. You know, no doubt reusability shaped the thermal protection system because the two that we really gave serious thought to were high-temperature metals as well as surface insulator. Surface insulator, we thought, was a considerable weight saving.

When we started the program, we actually took on three major developments. One was the main engine, which was the only thing that made shuttle possible. The other thing was a TPS, which was a major development. You know, we ended up with 6-inch tiles because the guys kept coming to me after tests and said, "Milt, the 12-inch ones keep cracking in half," and I said, "Well, why don't we make them 6 inches." That's what we settled on. I mean, simple as that. Then, of course, the other was the integrated avionics which, you know, is very complicated because, again, when you decided to take the engines to orbit, this gave an airplane with a very aft CG and as a result you had to go to a control-configured system to be able to fly it back.

MR. THOMPSON: Well, you would have had to do that anyway, Milt.

DR. SILVEIRA: Not necessarily. I think you could have flown it back without it if you had a proper CG on the airplane.

GEN. BARRY: I'd like to address another topic, if I may. Another topic would be managing risk, if I could get your perspective on this. We have clearly a system of systems integration element here with the STS. We are trying to address, as a board, providing substantive recommendations that might allow the shuttle system program to be strengthened. So in light of the way you managed risk at the beginning of the program, I'd like to maybe call on that knowledge base to just comment on a few things.

I know from the readings -- and, of course, my experience at NASA during the Challenger when Milt and I were there at NASA headquarters -- that with the CIL listing, you clearly had a focus -- and you've already brought it up a number of times -- that a certain was with the SSME. Then we have a failure on a simpler, less-complex part of the shuttle; and that is, of course, the O-ring on the solid rocket booster.

Now, we jump 17 years later and you look at the CIL list again and, lo and behold, at the top of the CIL list is a clear focus on the SSME and we have a problem with, of course, the tragedy on Columbia and it is part of the simpler part of this system of systems. It's foam on the external tank as the leading candidate, as the board has been working here and trying to determine what the cause.

So the question that we have really got is: How do you manage risk in a system of systems, complex environment that certainly we have here, when you clearly have a good focus on some of the complex elements -- and the SSME is a case in point -- but we miss listening to the materiel that is talking to us, insofar as an O-ring in one case and maybe some foam in this case?

MR. THOMPSON: Let me start with that and then y'all jump in. What you say certainly was the emphasis on -- if you had asked me when we started this program what would be the first thing that would fail that would cause us to lose a system, I would have probably talked to you about a failure in the liquid engines in the orbiter, No. 1. I might have talked to you about some failure on the thermal protection system. I would have been a long time probably before I got down to an O-ring on the SRB; but independent of that, any flight anomaly should be put on a PRACA, Problem Report And Corrective Action list. And the discipline in the system ought to be such that that PRACA is properly evaluated, in the sense that it's very clear whether it's a life-threatening issue or is not a life-threatening issue and who can sign off on that PRACA.

Now, the O-ring, I could argue whether that would be something that the SRB project could handle alone because you could argue that's internal; but when it's squirting hot gas toward the tank, it's not internal. It's a Level 2 PRACA. Both of those items should have been entered on a Problem Report And Corrective Action. It should have been listed as something that could destroy the system and it should have come to the Level 2 program manager for full discussion and full disposition and full willingness to accept it on the next flight. And at the Flight Readiness Review, the program manager should have signed off on both of those PRACAs, saying, "I understand what the failure is, I understand the consequences of it, and I'm willing to fly." Now, if the system's working, that's the way you manage risk; and you should manage it whether it's an O-ring or TPS or a turbine blade in a main engine. It should be no difference.

MR. JEFFS: Let me make a suggestion here. I spent some time on this broad area of management review operation with Sheila and others on the Deltas. I think it gets down to the depth of what was stated here by Bob, and that's attention to detail and to every last detail. Every last detail. It's hard to just wrap your arms around something and corral that whole thing.

One thing that I have found useful in the past and suggest on big programs to look at where some of these details need further scrutiny are the MRs. The MRs are Material Reviews. They are identifying little places that you should listen to. In the space business or in airplanes or anything, you've got to listen to the little voices because that may be the last thing you hear.

MR. THOMPSON: And you have to hear the little voices.

MR. JEFFS: Yeah. You've got to hear them, and you've got to do something about them. What I suggested doing with the MRs is what I call -- it's kind of a parallel to what Krantz and NASA and others have done down here on the what-if processes pre-flight -- and that's to review each MR. If I have an accident, I'm going to go look at the MRs among other things, first thing anyhow. So look at the MRs and do a pre-accident investigation. Just like it was an accident. Go through all those MRs. They are at least an identifier of where some of those voices are listening to be heard.

So how to answer your question any further than that, I don't know. It's get to the details and get to the right details, and that means you have to look at all the details.

MR. THOMPSON: But these two items that have caused the accidents in shuttle are clearly Problem Reporting And Corrective Action items. Clearly. And if the PRACA system is working, if they're properly identified and they're brought to the right level and the right people discuss it and they make a decision, right or wrong, that's the way the system works. You've got to get them discussed with the right information and the right people and make the right decisions.

ADM. GEHMAN: Let me follow up on that. I think we all kind of agree with that. Some management arrangements migrate over the years. For example, the experience base of you and your team having wrestled with Gemini and Apollo issues, when you had to make engineering decisions or engineering evaluations in the shuttle program, you all came with a rich history of being able to sense when you were operating too near the edge of margins and you had the dirty-fingernail basis for understanding that you really did have to give that guy a 500-pound budget, you had to increase his weight budget and he really did need that 500 pounds to do that.

Over the years, management styles have changed. Management organizations have changed. A number of things have happened. For example, the role of the U.S. government person has migrated up and been filled in behind by contractors such that we don't have government people -- not that they're any better than contractors, but they have a different reward system. The experience level of these managers didn't get the same experience that you had because they didn't have all of these projects to experiment on and grow up in and they just don't have this rich background that you all have. They're just as smart and just as dedicated, but they just don't have the same background that you all have.

You have such managerial twists as this Max Faget and his engineering department has been morphed over the years now to where the programs have to pay his bills or he loses his employees. In other words, he's not independently funded anymore. That's a gross exaggeration; they are, but not to the extent that they were independent back in your days. There are a whole lot of managerial trends that have taken place, driven by style and budgets and things like that.

So now we get to this meeting in which we're going to properly process an IFA or properly process a waiver or properly process some kind of a PRACA or something like that, but the machinery has changed now. The mechanisms have all changed. Based on good principles, based on first principles that you all have indicated, how do we balance this thing so that these good, proper sign-offs can be made by people who are qualified and understand the system, when the things are not the same as they were in your day and they can't be made the same? I mean, we can't go back and find people with the same kind of experience you had. It's not possible because NASA doesn't have, you know, four or five different space exploration projects going on in sequence in which to build the people with your experience. So somehow we've got to replace that.

What I've heard from you and what I've written down are what I would call first principles, and the first principles are you have to have knowledgeable people with experience and they have to have the authority and they have to have the richness of engineering horsepower behind them in order to make this case. And there has to be some checks and balances. Three or four of you have indicated checks and balances, not single-point failures in the management system.

Could you give me your views on today how you accomplish the things that you've said, when the dynamics of the management system have changed so much?

MR. THOMPSON: Well, you've asked kind of a complicated question for some discussion there. Let me comment this way. I think clearly, over whatever period of time you want to talk about, you have to maintain the internal procedural disciplines. You have to maintain the PRACA system and you have to maintain the forcing function that that puts in the program because that's a discipline that makes you look at anything that's off nominal whether it's in the worrisome engine or in the not-so-worrisome SRB. So you have to deal with PRACA. You have to deal with it in a formalized way through a Flight Readiness Review or whatever technique you want to use. So you have to maintain those systems.

Then you have to maintain enough high-quality well-trained people to make good judgments with those decisions. Neither one of these accidents that we've had on shuttle require Ph.D.s in physics to understand. In fact, they barely exceed high school physics to understand. Erosion rates on an O-ring when there should be no erosion is an obvious thing. Kinetic energies of a 2 1/2 or 3-pound hunk of tile when it's traveling 700 feet per second, that's high school physics. There should not be anyone in a key management position in a shuttle program who doesn't understand those things in considerably more depth than it would take to make a good decision on them.

Now, why those things didn't happen is the kernel of your question. It appears to me that the agency needs to, No. 1, make sure that the procedures that bring the Problem Report And Corrective Action to the right discussion forum and then the right people are dealing with them in a timely manner.

Now, having said all that, there may still be some actions that occur in the shuttle that those systems don't catch; but there's certainly no excuse not to have those systems in place and have reasonably good people deal with them.

MR. COHEN: I think George Jeffs probably said it the best and the simplest. I think the people involved need to pay attention to detail, need to bring issues forward, that they need to pay attention to detail.

MR. THOMPSON: And they need to understand them. It's one thing to pay attention; it's something else to know what's going on.

MR. COHEN: I'll tell you a story, if I may. We were getting ready to go to the moon on Apollo 11. I remember this. The initial measurement unit on the lunar module was no drift rate. All of a sudden it started drifting high but not out of spec. We, the Draper Labs or the MIT instrumentation lab and the subsystem managers, all went to George Low and told him he did not have to change the IMU on the lunar module. Very risky. The lunar module was made out of Reynolds wrap almost. And George Low looked at us. He said, "You may be right, but I'm going to change it out." It was telling a message. It was telling a message that it was drifting -- not out of spec but it started doing something different. I'll remember that as long as I live as a thing that you need to think about.

MR. JEFFS: Well, you've got to make sure that you get people in the right places that qualify in three categories. One, they've got to be intelligent. They've got to be dynamic, and they've got to care. They've got to care. If you lose any one of those three, you've got a miss. So you've got to make sure at least the leadership has those qualities. That's for the near term.

For the longer term, though, it's a bigger problem because we in industry are losing our capabilities in these areas and our backgrounds; and you in government are doing the same darn thing. I don't know what the answer to it is. Apollo was a stretch. Apollo stretched us technically, and it brought to bear a lot of interest and a lot of people in science and engineering. In the broader sense, we probably need something like that in the future to be able to attract our young people to science and engineering.

DR. LOGSDON: This is really kind of a follow-on to the discussion we were just having. I mean, the five of you represent the first generation of people that learned how to do things in space in this country. As Bob Thompson has said, putting people in orbit and getting them back safely is one of the hardest things that humans do. Most difficult. Most challenging. You are all here under the auspices of the NASA Alumni League, which should indicate that you have continued some involvement with the agency. Are you willing to give us your impressions of the NASA of 2003 as an organization? Is it up to the job that faces it? If not, what sort of things you've suggested in the past few minutes are needed to fix it?

MR. THOMPSON: John, I would personally dodge that question because I left NASA 20 years ago. I do not think that manned space flight is beyond the technical capability of this nation by any stretch of the imagination. I think the young generation, in many respects, is smarter than we are by far, better trained. So I think that what we're talking about here is easily achievable. There's no reason the NASA of today can't function well and operate the shuttle safely, whatever that means, and take on whatever future things you want to do in manned space flight. So I haven't lost faith in the agency.

Now, I do think you have to be extremely careful when you draw the interface between government and industry. I've been on both sides of those fences. The people on both sides are just as honest, just as dedicated; but they're driven by different things. If you're in industry, you've got a different set of constraints on you if you run the program than you are when you're in the government. I think the NASA of today ought to be very careful in drawing back so far and saying that contractor's responsible. When he really doesn't have the ability to be responsible if he doesn't control the subs or doesn't control the associates or he's not in a position to make all the right kind of balance judgments, don't put the muscle on him. I mean, don't put the monkey on his back if he doesn't have the muscle. So my only comment is I don't believe NASA is serving itself well if it pulls back too far in feeling an overall technical management responsibility for ongoing programs.

MR. COHEN: I'm not going to answer your question directly either because I've been away from years. But I have had the opportunity since I've been gone to teach at Texas A&M. Seniors. I can guarantee you that those young men and women that are coming through the class, I would hate to compete with them. They are truly outstanding. Many of them, whether they get their advanced degrees and go to MIT or whether they go to Purdue or whatever, most of them want to go to work for NASA or their contractors.

So good students are very interested in the space program and a lot of my students did come to work at the Johnson Space Center and other space centers. So, you know, I think the people are there and the people are good. I mean, the students today, as you know, are just outstanding.

DR. SILVEIRA: John, if I may. You know, there's no doubt in my mind that the kids today are better educated than we are. I have two kids that work in the program, and they're both smarter than I am. The thing I get paid for, at least, is to try to go out and find out what's going on in industry that we don't get the product we used to get out of them.

I think some of it comes about because we have started to train a lot of paper engineers rather than hardware engineers. Kids are not looking at the hardware enough to really understand what's going on and, anytime there's a little discrepancy in it, really get to understand what is happening. The hardware's trying to tell us something, and we don't carry it to a point where we really go and understand it and fix it.

You know, recently we had a PDR of one of our programs, you know, and the contractor was proud: "We have spent 3,000 man-years on documentation." I can't imagine a program demanding that kind of paper to keep it going. I think the thing we need to do is to get kids out from behind the computers and get them to go out and walk the factory floor and really see what hardware's all about.

MR. JEFFS: I'll say three things from the industry side. I won't try and reorganize the NASA. That takes a little longer. But I think that, as Bob mentioned, we march to different drummers, in a way; but when I ran the space and energy operations for Rockwell, I was also a corporate vice-president of Rockwell. So I had a lot of pressure that didn't have a thing to do with the space program, but it didn't keep me from applying the right kind of people on the problems at the right time in the right way. And I think these guys will all attest that they didn't see anything in the results of what happened with the industry on their hardware that was influenced in any negative way by profit motives or otherwise in getting those problems solved.

No. 2, there are a lot of smart people out there in industry. They can be assigned. There are talents available to the people that run these companies. I think it takes their focus also to get the right kind of people in the right place at the right time on the space program and to look at their priorities.

The third thing is that one of the things that made Apollo and shuttle happen was an excellent working relationship between industry and government. That working relationship was criticized in many ways by being too close and what have you; but I assure you, when it came to solving the technical problems, it wasn't. I also assure you when it came to getting any money out of these guys, it also didn't manifest itself in the way of excess profit. So I think that encouraging the good working relationship on mutual utilization of each other's capabilities is an excellent additive to making these big programs happen properly and on time.

MR. MORRIS: I'd like to follow up on that just a little bit. I think one of the things that over the last 10, 20 years has happened in this process of NASA going up and being backed by contractors is a lack of sufficient check and balance. The one thing we had in the Apollo program, in the shuttle program, during the design phase, was parallelism between the government and the contractor. Both were very good, but they also were checks and balances. When you turn all the responsibility either to the government or all the responsibility to the contractor, you lose some of that check and balance.

I think the process that you have to look at things like the O-ring or like the foam, you need to make sure the process you have asks the second question, not what did that cause on the last flight but what else could it affect. I think in both cases the second question was not asked properly. I think that's the thing that can be fixed with a system. The system that assures the right checks and balances and the right questions are asked.

DR. WIDNALL: Not including the space program, what are the other major scientific and technical challenges faced by our nation that have the power to motivate our young people?

MR. THOMPSON: I think, frankly, the Defense Department is one of the greatest motivators of our young people. I think maintaining a very strong and very active military or defense capability or offense capability, either way you want to talk about it, is a very important contribution to our society. We in NASA often take a lot of credit for technology advancement. I'm not so sure in the same number of years the technology advancement wasn't stimulated more by the Defense Department than NASA. The fact that you have to solve the kinds of problems that the military solves on a routine basis drives technology certainly as much as the space program. Obviously medical research. So I could list eight or ten things, but certainly we benefitted to a great extent in the NASA space program by what was going on in the Defense Department in similar activities -- be it rocket science, be it structures, be it flight control systems.

For example, at the same time we were putting the control-configured flight control system on the shuttle, DOD was doing the same thing with the F-16. And we visited their research laboratories and they visited ours. We took some things, learned from them. They took some things and learned from us. Both systems are working today, 35 years later, quite well. So I would like to see us maintain an extremely strong national defense capability, if for no other reason, to drive the kind of thing you're asking about.

MR. COHEN: I think in my observation, being in academia for a while, that there is a lack of funds for students that want to get their advanced degrees, to go on to get their Master's degrees and Ph.D.s. I think that could be a big stimulus to producing more graduate students and actually enhance our engineering capability in the country.

MR. JEFFS: They had a session not too long ago that George Abby pulled together at Rice that addressed the subject in part; and it seemed to me that to attract the young people, it's going to have to take something that has duration long time. Most of the military programs, albeit some of them are changing now, are lesser duration. It needs something that people can address and assign their life to, youngsters, and enthusiastically do that. I think that the NASA has that within its grasp if they better structured and articulated the total space program, the unmanned systems and the manned systems. And I think manned systems have to be an element because they have the aura. They have the thing that brings the young people into it more than the unmanned programs do. But the unmanned programs and the manned programs go together. So a better articulation of the total program. The targeting of something like a Mars stretch or something such as that, like the Rumsfeld approach, get out in front of the pitch, go out --

DR. WIDNALL: George, I specifically ruled out the space program.

MR. JEFFS: Oh, you did.

DR. WIDNALL: Yeah, I did. I really wanted to talk more comprehensively about our whole society, science and technology and our young people. I think obviously I think we all understand the power of space.

DR. SILVEIRA: As you know, the President has charged Missile Defense Agency with a deployment capability into '04, beginning of '05. That's a pretty big technical challenge.

ADM. GEHMAN: Let me ask a question that I think is related. Once again, going back to your experience in Gemini and Apollo and Spacelab. These programs were not exactly heel-and-toe programs. There was a little overlap among those programs and people migrated and people learned and worked their way up through the process.

In your judgment, what's a generation in a space vehicle? In other words, how long do you think that we should stay with a space vehicle and how big a leap do you need to make to have its replacement come along? Is 20 years, 25 years, 40 years a generation, and should we have a replacement program already have been started? What's the time frame here and what are the indications or the characteristics of when it's time to say that's a generation? You've all heard of Moore's law that a generation in computing power is 18 months. Well, what's a generation in a space vehicle?

MR. THOMPSON: Let me make a jump at that because I've thought about this a little bit in my own career. In my working career, I spent the first 11 years in basic research at a research laboratory and, frankly, I was beginning to not get burned out but I was ready for change. The space program came along. I got in the space program; and we did Mercury in about four years, as I recall, from the time we started talking about it until we had finished it. Before we finished that, we took on Gemini; and we finished that in maybe five. Let me just pick a number. Five or six years. Before we finished that, we had Apollo. We did Apollo in ten years. We then bootstrapped Skylab in there for three or four years, using the residual Apollo hardware. So during that 20 years, you know, I never spent more than ten years in any one focused area -- sometimes as few as four, sometimes as many as ten.

When we took on the shuttle, Skylab and Apollo/Soyuz were the only things in town, and we had a gap of activity of three or four years, five years where we didn't fly anything from Soyuz until we flew the shuttle. But that ten years was a very strong development cycle. So for people at least like myself, there was an interesting activity every four to ten years that lasted anywhere from four to ten years. So you could jump from one to the other and grow as you jumped.

Now, if the country does not take on those kind of programs and you say stick with the shuttle for 50 years, then you have to find some way, internal to that, to keep people excited. Maybe you do it somewhat like the military does, by rotating them every three years or rotating them every --

MR. JEFFS: Two months.

MR. THOMPSON: Again, the military found out in the R&D program it didn't want to rotate them as much because they lost the technical competence. So if it's not possible for the nation to throw an exciting new program out there every five years, then you have to look for some other motivation below there. I would say ten years in any one kind of an assignment is probably enough for most people and they need to go do something either more complex or something different. But that's just a wild guess.

MR. JEFFS: These programs cost a lot of money; and therefore when you start them, you better darn well make sure you've figured out what you want to do with them and what you're trying to do with the programs. That's kind of Item No. 1.

The other thing is that these programs are often paced not by money and talent but they're also paced by technology. So there's no point in taking off on a single stage to orbit if you don't have an engine that can perform that kind of mission. So we go charging off and we all get together and say, "Let's go single stage to orbit." Then say, "Well, that's great but how do we get there? Oars."

So therefore you've got to look at the technology base as it permits you to make decisions for the next generation. So I think, like Bob, it seems like it's five years, Gemini; 10, 15 on Apollo; 15, 20, maybe 25 on shuttle. The next one is going to be longer than that. But it's going to have the technology behind it that enables you to commit that kind of funding and that duration of lifetime of people to it.

MR. COHEN: I think there are things you can do. In fact, things have been thought of that you can do is to in some way combine the talents of the human exploration program and the robotic program for Mars exploration and bring the human element of the program involved in that. I think those are things I think you could do.

I mean, one time we looked at a Mars sample return mission, JSC working hand in hand with JPL to do a Mars sample return. It never did come to fruition, but I think things like that would really create the interest and keep the people sharp and keep people very interested.

DR. SILVEIRA: When you consider that the shuttle is a first-generation vehicle, first of its kind, you would think -- and I know a lot of the mistakes we made in the design initially that we have found out as a result of flying the vehicle. You would think within a 20-year time period that we would be coming up with a better design, seeing it's going to take another ten years to build a vehicle. I think it's far overdue that we should be into a second-generation vehicle similar to shuttle.

MR. JEFFS: If you know what you want to do with it.

ADM. GEHMAN: My question was more along the programmatic and technology angle than it is the human resource angle. I appreciate what you say, and I agree with what you say. You've got to challenge people if want to keep good people working on these things, but it does seem to me that a generation in space vehicles -- I mean, I can't put a number on it but I can tell you that it's not zero and I can also tell you that it's not 40. A generation is someplace in between there; and if it's some number less than 40 and it takes seven, eight, nine, ten years to produce this thing, I'm wondering how urgent it is that we get on with this.

MR. JEFFS: You know, I would like to add one thing to the previous statement. There are lots of opportunities that can be identified; and some of them have some very interesting possibilities, I think. I would commend the agencies and others from initiating the nuclear engine programs. I think this is a whole new avenue that's going to open up a lot of possibilities. I think that the idea of coming up with some engine that will essentially be unto itself, a turbojet or engine, a rocket and the whole schmeer in one swoop is an excellent kind of focus if there's feasibility basis behind it.

Those are the kinds of things that will offer the opportunity to identify these kinds of program. If I were going to try and build a new orbiter today I would do a few things differently, but I don't think the machine would be a heck of a lot different than before. It might have titanium in it instead of aluminum, for example. It might have a more rugged tile system, even though the one we've got is adequate. There might be a lot of things that we could do with it that would make it a better racehorse, but it would be in the thoroughbreds instead of the claimers or something. You know, it's not going to be that big step forward. But those other kinds of things like the engines and so on, nuclear engines and so on, those are the things that are going to offer the opportunities for us.

ADM. GEHMAN: Thank you for that. Assuming that if we could cast off to the side, for example -- this is argumentative, so you just have to make an assumption with me here -- if we could cast off to the side that the next step that we make in space has to be a leap -- I mean, why can't it be a tiny step? You know, aircraft developed by evolution. We didn't go from the Wright flyer to the 747. We went in many, many, many evolutionary steps.

So I hear this all the time that, well, you've got to stay with the shuttle because the next giant leap is not there in front of us. I don't find that to be completely compelling. The President has already said that man is going to continue his journey in and out of space. Is there any reason why we can't do that journey in an evolutionary way, that we have to have some big, giant leap in technology to do it?

MR. JEFFS: No, but it has to be enticing enough for the new generation of people coming along to want to dedicate their lives to it. We're already losing our capabilities now on the one we've got. It's not sexy enough. It's not exciting enough.

MR. THOMPSON: Well, let me argue with that a little bit. I tried to allude to this before. When Nixon made the decision, the so-called low earth orbital infrastructure decision that I spoke about earlier, there was no big national-level discussion of it or national-level announcement of it or national-level description of it. So a lot of attention was not drawn to it. Part of the reason, politically you were proposing to do something that was considerably less expenditure, less effort, less glamorous than the Apollo program. So compared to what Kennedy did with the Apollo program, announcing a low earth orbital infrastructure wasn't nearly that sexy, so to speak. Plus, the personality of the man, he wasn't that interested in space. So he didn't make a big to-do about it.

There is plenty about what we're doing today and what he will do in the next 10, 15 years that should excite a lot of capable people to work on it, even though it's not exploring Mars. I frankly think it will be a long time before you can convince any Congress to spend the money to embark on a properly thought-out Mars exploration mission because it's going to be extremely costly and there's going to a hell of an argument about whether it's worth that cost as compared to putting the cost somewhere else.

So I think what is needed is a little more attention to explaining. For example, the space station, I think, is a very exciting program. The thought somewhere in the future of direct solar conversion to electrical energy with a solar power station in orbit. The kinds of things you can do in a low earth orbit with shuttle and space station type vehicles could be made into a very exciting program.

Part of the problem is that people want to throw that aside and go to Mars for some reason, and we've got to put the defense in that because I think where the nation's going to spend its money for the next several years in manned space flight is going to be in low earth orbit and we'd better start explaining the beauty of it and I don't think you're going to have any trouble getting plenty of people to work on it, good people, if you'll talk about it and explain it properly.

MR. JEFFS: The only addition to that is that Apollo dragged with it a lot of technology. A lot of technology came with Apollo. A lot of new businesses came out of Apollo. It was a stretch and it was an exciting kind of thing. And if you don't have a stretch, you're not good to drag the technology. And I think that dragging the technology, forcing it into the forefront is the thing that's best not only for the space program but for the nation.

MR. COHEN: In order to do what you say, though, I think some group or some body, some body of people need to establish the need for doing it, what is the need, what are you really trying to accomplish, before you can really move forward to the next step, I think.

ADM. GEHMAN: Let me close this by asking the last question, which is a complicated one. My understanding of the glorious history of space exploration in which you all play an important role is that over the years the role of the NASA engineer has migrated in a sense. You read in popular literature that in the original program that Werner von Braun was accused of wasting money because when he received components from contractors, he had his engineers take them apart and put them back together again. I don't even know if that's true or not. In any case, those engineers, even though they didn't build this thing, they now got dirty-fingernails experience; and as you went through the Gemini program and Apollo program, a lot of that was in-house work. There was a certain amount of basic research and basic engineering that was done in house and some of it was done by contractors and some of it that was done by contractors was checked by in-house engineers. Then as we migrate away, more and more of this work is being done by contractors and less and less of this work is being done by NASA employees.

So my two-part question. Is this management by subs -- let me get to my bottom line. Then I'll ask the question.

One of the possible outcomes of this board's work may be some comment about some kind of a system qualification or a system recertification that if you were to really fly these orbiters from one decade, two decades, into their third decade that, just like a 747 or something, if you're going to extend the service life of it, you ought to do some kind of a system qualification or system certification. Well, if there's nobody at NASA that has that hands-on engineering experience, then you've got to have contractors do it.

Now, does that get us into a boxed canyon here? Does that trouble you, or would you think that the style that you all grew up on in which NASA engineers also had hands-on engineering experience by some way is either critical or not critical? A lot of people have said it's not necessary to do that. How do you feel about that? Particularly in light of a possible outcome where it's possible that we might have to in some way formally recertify the three remaining orbiters or requalify, do we have to do it system by system and who does it?

MR. COHEN: Well, I know when I was center director of the Johnson Space Center I always liked to have at least one or two projects, in-house projects where the engineering talent at the Johnson Space Center was doing the work. I think that was carried on. I think they went pretty far with one of the crew rescue vehicles they were designing here at the Johnson Space Center. They went pretty far with that. So I think in-house NASA projects or in-house projects at NASA that they can actually, as Milt said, get their hands dirty on is very worthwhile; and I think it does teach them an awful lot. Now, that takes money, it takes emphasis, but I think some type of steady, continuing having of in-house projects, I think, is very important. That would answer, I think, part of your question.

MR. JEFFS: I'd like to make sure the picture is not painted in some strange fashion here. The NASA guys are the guys that set the requirements and check the product as it meets the requirements. Industry is one that puts the product together. The drawings are all prepared by industry and all the specs are prepared, all the list of materials. Everything is built and tested. All the tools are made by industry. Industry does the job.

Now, if you're going to recertify the vehicle, industry, with NASA's overview, would be the one that puts together the details of what that recertification process should constitute and consist of. So it's not like NASA is doing all the job. NASA is a supervisor and an overviewer. Industry is the one that does the job.

I'd also like to say that you made some comment earlier about testing and checking. On occasion we've had to check NASA tests. Every once in a while NASA runs some pretty strange tests, too. So we've had to straighten that out. So it's both sides.

ADM. GEHMAN: It is both sides, but it is healthy.

MR. THOMPSON: You do, though, need to have -- what George says is exactly correct. Nowhere in our manned space flight experience, except extremely early in the Mercury program, did NASA sit down and do the drawings and build in NASA shops a spacecraft. The first spacecraft we flew in Mercury, we actually designed with civil servants in the Langley Research Center. We built it in the Langley Research Center shops with civil service people and we took it down with the support of the Air Force and launched it on an Air Force rocket at the Cape and got our early Mercury data off of a thing called Big Joe. From that point onward, the people who do the drawings, the people who do the detailed internal stress analysis, the people who do the certification, formal certifications at all level, that is industry's job. That's what you contract with them.

My point I would like to make is you need to contract with them in such a way that they can bring their talents to the program effectively, but you have to leave the government in a proper control mode in that contracting format. If you contract in such a way that it isolates the government from some feeling of responsibility or some feeling to need what's going on or some reason to make critical decisions, then you've backed the government out too far. For example, if you take all of the contractors working on shuttle and assign them under one integration contractor and give him all those contracts to run, that's fine; but you haven't gone down to one contractor. You've gone from 0 to 81 contractors, and you then have to back the government off to let that contractor assume a certain level. Otherwise, you might as well stick with the government and 80 contractors if you're going to still penetrate to where you are. But you also have to set up the contracting channels properly and the responsibilities properly.

I personally favor something much more like we had in shuttle where, for example, no contractor in shuttle had the leverage over the other contractors. Rockwell could not go tell Martin to do anything from the orbiter to the tank. It had to come through a government channel to get something done, and the government then was in a very knowledgeable and in a very controlled position to do it that way. It puts a responsibility upon the government that you've got to be prepared to fulfill, but I think it keeps you involved in a much more meaningful way.

Typically, in my judgment, in the earlier years, NASA penetrated the program probably a notch lower than the military DOD typically penetrated their programs. The NASA that I knew did not need the aerospace support to the same level that the Air Force needed aerospace support on the ballistic missile program. Either way, you can make it work; but you ought to decide which way you're doing it and make sure you make it perfectly clear. And I would very much like to see NASA retain a capability to penetrate the programs relatively deeply.

MR. JEFFS: I'd like to make a comment on one other statement that you made. That was about hands-on. I think hands-on is a fundamental need for the engineers on both sides of the fence, both the NASA and industry. One of the classic examples was to take thermodynamics people down and show them the hardware that they were actually influencing, changing, and controlling the configuration of. It's a revelation to those. You find the aerodynamics guys, thermo guys and so on tend to get remote from the program and work with just paper. Get them out and show them the hardware and it gives you a better project, a better person that's working on it engineering-wise, and he has greater accountability and responsibility for it. So that's true on both sides.

MR. MORRIS: I'd like to build on that a little bit, if I could. I think NASA in particular needs to be very careful that they retain smart management. I think, to do that, they have to come up through the ranks with a few dirty fingernails, maybe even greasy fingers. One of the things that really upset me was the cancellation of the X-38 project, the recovery vehicle that Aaron was talking about. This was a chance for the people working for NASA to actually understand how you go make something happen. By doing that, they then become much smarter managers.

I think at the time NASA pulled away from management in detail -- and there were a lot of good reasons to do that -- there was then at the same time a promise made that research and development internal would be increased, and increased materially. I don't think that's happened. Therefore I think the NASA personnel have lost out both ways over a period of time. They no longer are managing in detail and they are not backing up, in research and prototype development, the experience level within the organization that they really need.

ADM. GEHMAN: Well, thank you very much, Mr. Silveira, Mr. Morris, Mr. Jeffs, Mr. Thompson, Mr. Cohen. We thank you very much for joining us here today. We thank you very much for your open and candid discussions of all these issues.

As you can see, the board has a fairly wide aperture about what we are going to write in our report. They include such matters as you have discussed with us today; and your background knowledge is still valuable, still of great benefit to the nation. I thank you very much for agreeing to contribute it here in such an open forum. We really appreciate it very much, and we wish you all the best of luck. Thanks very much.

We will reconvene at 1:00 o'clock.

(Luncheon recess, 12:14 p.m.)

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