Friday, 27 Aug 1993 Washington, DC
1. "HORIZONTAL" LOS ALAMOS RIPS STEPS OUT OF MANAGEMENT LADDER.
Los Alamos became the first national lab to implement the "Total
Quality Management" themes Secretary of Energy Hazel O'Leary has
(WN 30 Jul 93). All the associate director and
deputy director positions were eliminated and the number of upper
managers was cut by 50%. In TQM lingo, they're going horizontal.
Only a lean 27 directorships are left--all still up for grabs.
And faced with budget cuts, the staff is being reduced by 450.
2. REBUFF BY THE CANADIANS PUTS THE GEMINI TELESCOPES IN THE RED.
For three years the US has been contributing to a $176M system to
place matched 8-meter telescopes in the northern and southern
hemispheres on the understanding that international partners will
put up 50%. But last week, when it was time for a representative
of Canada's National Research Council to sign a formal agreement,
he balked. With the NRC facing new budget cuts, he said he wanted
to "review finances." Here we go again; Canada withdrew as a 25%
partner in '91, only to rejoin six months later as a 15% partner.
3. SILENCE OF SHUTTLE TECHNICIANS IS A SOURCE OF CONCERN AT NASA.
When a pair of missing pliers was found wedged into the solid
rocket booster assembly of the space shuttle after a mission last
April, NASA initiated a review of shuttle processing operations.
They discovered that shuttle technicians are so afraid of getting
sacked that they aren't speaking up when they find a mistake--and
a mistake is made almost daily. The review team determined that,
over a period of 1000 workdays, there were 897 mishaps, of which
29% could be classed as "close calls." They also found that
there were 1.76 "in-flight anomalies" per flight day. But don't
be fooled by the numbers--the team concluded that the shuttle is
highly successful! After all, they explained, over 3000 employees
execute five million procedures per year for the program. So why
are the technicians so worried? The team suggested that the fear
may result from exaggerated reporting of incidents by the media.
4. SILENCE OF THE MARS OBSERVER IS A SOURCE OF DESPAIR AT NASA.
NASA Administrator Dan Goldin has asked Tim Coffey, director of
research at NRL and an APS Fellow, to lead an investigation of
the loss. Observer won't be replaced by another billion dollar
multi-purpose experiment. According to the New York Times NASA is
even looking into the possibility of using the light-weight
low-cost Clementine spacecraft developed by SDI
(WN 3 April 92). The
Air Force will launch Clementine I in January on a lunar mapping
and asteroid flyby mission. Demonstrators outside JPL charged
that the silence of the Mars Observer is part of a NASA cover-up
of evidence that extraterrestrials have built gigantic icons on
Mars. They point to a 17-year old Viking photo showing a feature
about a mile across that looks like--gasp!--Pee Wee Herman! If
extraterrestrials eavesdropped on old TV broadcasts and selected
Pee Wee Herman as a deity, NASA did right to cover it up.