Friday, October 07, 2005

NASA website analysis: CAIB press conference

The Columbia Disaster and Investigation
NASA’s website had extensive information on the astronauts and people involved in the Columbia disaster. But what struck me as most interesting was a press conference I came across in which Sean O’Keefe answered questions about the CAIB report on August 27, 2003. The press conference is quite lengthy but is very telling about the organization and its reaction to the findings within the report. A reporter mentioned that O’Keefe told NASA employees that he thought the report would be “ugly”, and then asked O’Keefe if he felt the report was as he thought it would be. The reporter then asked how it would affect company morale (pg. 26 of the press conference report). O’Keefe answered by saying that the organization was looking for a straightforward assessment of what happened, and that is what they got. He added that the information given in the report would be used to strengthen the organization.

The Challenger Disaster and Investigation
While looking through various articles on the Challenger accident, the one that struck me most (perhaps not for its relevance in the organization, but for the human emotion felt in it) was the transcript from the mission’s voice recorder. This document takes you through the entire launch process. At the beginning of the document you can feel the excitement in their voices. In fact the whole transcript is sort of this building excitement, one person saying “wooohoooo” right up until “uhoh”. And then all data is lost. There is just this all-consuming feeling while reading it, like you are right there with them, and then suddenly, there is nothing.

The Culture and Climate of NASA
The “Work for NASA” and “NASAJobs” websites were both helpful in assessing the culture and climate of the organization. By looking at the pictures alone, I got the idea that NASA was very diverse, and that the company seemed to be accepting and inviting. There were many links to explore all the components of the organization. It seems that NASA is very focused on moving forward and putting the past behind them. I found it interesting that when I looked at the brief history of the organization, it did not mention the Challenger or Columbia disasters, both of which were significant events in the organization’s history. Clearly the company is more focused on furthering exploration and moving beyond past expectations and situations. NASA seems very optimistic about “leading the world” in space exploration.