ASK OCE — September 20, 2006 — Vol. 1, Issue 14
Message from the Chief Engineer
The Significance of the Crew Exploration Vehicle
By Chris Scolese
The Vision for Space Exploration presents NASA with an extraordinary set of challenges that will set the course of the Agency for years to come. One of the most exciting and ambitious of these is the development of a new human-rated spacecraft that will take us back to the moon and then to Mars.
Orion, the new Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV), will be the first spacecraft of its kind since the Apollo Command Module. Its development is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for NASA's technical community, the same way that the Apollo vehicle was for NASA's first generation.
Theodore Roosevelt once gave a famous piece of advice perfectly suited for spacecraft designers: "Keep your eyes on the stars, but remember to keep your feet on the ground." Orion will require visionary solutions that can withstand the highest degree of engineering rigor. We will rely on our imaginations for new ideas, but in the end we will listen to the data. Our job as engineers is not to hide problems — it is to find, discuss, and solve them. Finding problems before they find us is the key to our success.
In the context of spaceflight projects, the iterative process through which we conceive ideas, find problems, and devise solutions is one that Dr. Stephen Johnson, author of The Secret of Apollo
, has called "managed innovation." As in the Apollo era, this practice requires our management to give clear direction while remaining responsive and open to change when the facts demand it. Above all, we must trust our people and allow them the autonomy to do their jobs. As Admiral Hyman Rickover said, "Human experience shows that people, not organizations or management systems, get things done."
So are we headed down the right path so far? My answer is a resounding yes. It is my role as Chief Engineer to support this effort by ensuring that NASA’s technical workforce has the appropriate tools, standards, and professional development to achieve the level of technical excellence that this ambitious vehicle development will require. We are building NASA's systems engineering capability to address the needs of the Vision for Space Exploration. We are drawing on the expertise of those who have been there before. We are connecting our past with our future.