"If somebody brought a concern to you, and it just didn't sound logical, you were very dismissive and told them to get a life," he says. Next week we have the final editorial board meeting for the GPO shuttle history book ‘Wings in Orbit.’ This will be at MSFC in Huntsville, Alabama. ". It's not, 'Did the foam come off the tank?' Loudspeakers were playing communications between Columbia and mission control. "We could discuss the particulars: inattention, incompetence, distraction, lack of conviction, lack of understanding, a lack of backbone, laziness. ", "Surrounded by imitations of real life on computers, at the movies, on television, our work has real consequences." It was a question that faced NASA's Mission Control considered after initial suspicions that something might be wrong with the shuttle Columbia as it was making its doomed reentry in 2003. Hale and the other managers had daily meetings to look at the incident. The object smacked into Columbia's side and went "poof" somewhere around the left wing. It did not fail again. It showed something fuzzy coming off the shuttle's big orange external fuel tank. Hale was chatting to his friends, feeling relaxed. It had done some damage in the past, but not too much. The shuttle sometimes passed through a brief communications blackout during re-entry. On Tuesday a NASA flight controller using a camera on board the space shuttle Atlantis spotted a piece of debris floating alongside the orbiter. When an engineer came to him with an issue after the accident, even if he didn't understand it, he tried. So yeah, I feel like this was probably the worst failure of my life," he says. The big tank is covered in foam insulation. Fixing a culture, though, is not an easy thing to do. NASA learned many things from the Columbia accident, though it is probably too early to say if the agency has learned enough. "Those of us in the shuttle program need to take care lest we become the battleship admirals of the new century; failing to understand when times have changed and in which direction progress is marching toward. Finally, the agency has asked me to continue writing my NASA blog in retirement. Managers had a lot to worry about. I expect to write you a report on that as well. Culture consists of the unwritten rules and behaviors that determine how people act, and because they are unwritten, it is hard to identify them. We became complacent about the vision," he said. On this fateful flight, the foam punched a small hole in the left wing. "You talk about feeling guilty, now there is something to feel guilty about," he says. We knew that one way to address NASA’s problems was to put good people with the right experience and attitude in key positions, where they could inspire, and lead by example. Wayne Hale, now the deputy space shuttle program manager at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, previously served for more than two decades in Mission Control. Day served as an investigator on the Columbia Accident Investigation Board. "It is a natural continuation of the American dream. Not to have communication with the crew at this point is not good. Marking the first anniversary of the loss of the shuttle Columbia and its seven astronauts, a newly promoted NASA shuttle official has called on all space workers to adjust their thinking in preparation for resuming shuttle missions and going beyond them to meet the new goals recently set by the White House. Hale became a listener. But their concerns weren't clearly understood by people at the top like Hale. "I said the first thing we've got to do is we've got to put the arrogance aside," he says. ", Hale expressed amazement and gratitude that the Columbia disaster did not lead to the termination of the American human spaceflight program. Damage to the orbiter's left wing doomed the crew 16 days later, when the shuttle broke apart during re-entry. Wayne Hale (center) at the console in Houston's Mission Control Center in 2001. When the shuttle re-entered the atmosphere, hot gases seeped into the hole. At age 48, Hale was an up-and-coming manager with NASA. It was Feb. 1, 2003. "All real problems are people problems. Then, after a short pause, the colonel added: “Hale was one of the good guys.”. And it is that vision which Hale urges workers to protect. Many of you did the same. Hale had spent his entire adult life in the space business. ", 'I am at fault'Hale said a worker at Kennedy Space Center had complained to him that they hadn't heard any NASA managers admit to being at fault for the disaster. He added, "I don't know any other agency or any other organization where that is so completely and thoroughly true. And there were always problems that needed to be fixed. ", Hale explained that "the shuttle is an amazing machine, but like every other machine ever built, she is the result of a series of compromises, built within financial constraints, a product of the state of the art of technology when she was designed. It is time to adjust our thinking. Don't believe the critics when they sell her short. Longtime flight director Wayne Hale acknowledges in his letter that "I failed to stand up and be counted" before the loss of Columbia. ", "Instead," he wrote, "the nation has told us to get up, fix our shortcomings, fly again — and make sure it doesn't happen again. ", 'A lot of thinking'"I have been doing a lot of thinking lately," he wrote, citing the approaching anniversary, a new book on the accident, the success of the Mars rover missions, and "most importantly thinking about the new policy and direction from our leaders. Watching Hale in the press conferences this past week has only reinforced that view. He'd just taken a … The nation is giving us another chance. How can you fix a problem that not everybody sees or understands? That seems rather obvious, but identifying “good people” is far harder than one would initially expect. Shortly after the loss of Columbia – while I was still assigned as the Shuttle Program Launch Integration Manager at KSC – the Eastern Range folks sent me a CD ROM with the radar tracking information from January 16, 2003. "The shuttle is a marvelous and revolutionary machine," he wrote. The morning that the space shuttle Columbia was supposed to return home, Wayne Hale was at the landing site. But since this was a landing day, he didn't have much to do. Those cameras had seen something, he said. NASA learned many things from the Columbia accident, though it is probably too early to say if the agency has learned enough. That seems rather obvious, but identifying “good people” is far harder than one would initially expect. The astronauts were scheduled to land any minute. Not only national pride is at stake, but we place the human exploration of the cosmos for a generation on the table.". But the shuttle is not the ultimate in human spacecraft, Hale reminded his colleagues. "The goal of exploring and settling the solar system will not be completed in our lifetime or our children's lifetime. Culture consists of the unwritten rules and behaviors that determine how people act, and because they are unwritten, it is hard to identify them. Not only are we wagering the program; we lay the agency on the line. But I remember one afternoon when I was talking with an Air Force colonel skilled in aircraft accident investigations when Hale’s name came up and I asked how Hale had been involved in the accident. However, the fact that Wayne Hale is running the program is good reason for everyone on the inside and outside of NASA to feel reassured. Shuttle program manager Wayne Hale at the Kennedy Space Center earlier this year as one of the shuttles rolled to the launch pad. Soon afterwards, astronaut Dan Burbank spotted something else floating away from the shuttle. That's an immediate failure. The space shuttle Columbia lifted off on Jan. 16, 2003. He'd known about the foam problem for years. He popped a CD in Hale's computer and pulled up the clip. Admiral Gehman warned his board members and staff that the first few missions after Columbia would be relatively safer because everybody would be on their toes, paranoid, even terrified of making mistakes that could cause another accident. Nicholas DePrey created original music for the series. ", "In my mind's eye our progress is like the Olympic torch relay: each person and each program holds the flame of exploration and progress high for an allotted portion of the route, and then the torch is passed to the next runner in the relay," he wrote. The vision has variations in detail and timetable, but the central theme has not varied for decades.". So if an engineer couldn't explain an issue clearly, it got ignored. It was developed in NPR's Story Lab. In the end, they decided it wouldn't be a problem. The culture and the organizational rules had to work in such a way that senior management did not suppress the concerns of lower level operators and engineers like Wayne Hale. Director of Human Spaceflight and Energy Services N. Wayne Hale, Jr. is currently the Director of Human Spaceflight, Special Aerospace Services, LLP, of Boulder, Colorado since 2010. Some of them even said that he represented the kind of person that we expected from NASA: competent, smart, and thoughtful. Not just to fly the shuttle again, but to continue to explore the universe in our generation.". He exudes a natural calm and competence, not to mention honesty. The aluminum frame melted. By this time, shuttle program manager Wayne Hale had already made the decision to delay the reentry in order to give flight controllers time to assess the situation. Posts about Columbia Accident written by waynehale. However, the fact that Wayne Hale is running the program is good reason for everyone on the inside and outside of NASA to feel reassured. But he was overruled by more senior managers — some of whom were replaced during the investigation. ". The colonel explained how Hale had been one of the people who had been concerned about the foam strike during the flight and had tried to obtain on-orbit imagery of the orbiter during its mission, only to be rebuffed by upper level managers. I’ve always worried more about re-entry and landing than I have over powered Ascent. The bottom line is that I failed to understand what I was being told; I failed to stand up and be counted. Shuttle's feats and flawsHale paid tribute to the space shuttle but was realistic about its problems as well. Damage to the orbiter's left wing doomed the crew 16 days later, when the shuttle broke apart during re-entry. Wayne Hale, who later became space shuttle program manager, struggled with this question after the deaths of the Columbia crew 10 years ago. The real test would be seven or eight missions after the initial return to flight, and especially as the program wound down. He knows how to listen to the machine, and he knows of the importance of listening to people. During the Columbia accident investigation I was one of over 100 staff members who worked for the CAIB (not all of them worked simultaneously, and for the many months I was there, the staff probably numbered no more than 50–60).

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