Offbeat: The Paradox of NASA’s Culture of Optimism - - PressFrom - US
  •   
  •   
  •   

Offbeat The Paradox of NASA’s Culture of Optimism

20:45  04 august  2018
20:45  04 august  2018 Source:   theatlantic.com

Scientists find the source of all that crazy Mars dust

  Scientists find the source of all that crazy Mars dust Mars is a dust bowl thanks to one immense geological feature, a new study suggests.Mars is looking pretty hazy these days thanks to a nutty global dust storm that sent one of NASA's rovers into hibernation. All that dust had to come from somewhere, and scientists believe they've found the main source.

The agency’ s culture of optimism is essential for launching people and robots into space . But it can lead to problems with budgets and deadlines.

Culture : Statistical Data The National Statistical Institute Lulanski, Community Centres of Education and Culture in the Market Economy: In Search of DecisionsParadoxes of our Intelligentsia', Chitaliste Magazine. Discover more publications, questions and projects in Optimism .

a close up of a device © NASA / MSFC / Sergey Peterman / Shutterstock / Katie Martin / The Atlantic

In June, NASA officials announced some distressing news: America’s next great space telescope won’t launch next spring, as they had hoped. Engineers needed more time to finish it. Their new deadline, they said, is 2021.

To explain the delay, officials brought in Tom Young, a highly respected engineer who has been involved with NASA since the 1970s. Young ran through a litany of problems, each more groan-worthy than the next. Engineers had used the wrong solvent to clean the space observatory’s propulsion valves. They had applied too much voltage to the spacecraft’s pressure transducers. When they shook the spacecraft to test whether it could withstand a rocket launch, dozens of bolts broke free and scattered into its hardware, leading to a weeks-long effort to find them.

NASA's TESS Space Telescope Begins Hunt for New Planets

  NASA's TESS Space Telescope Begins Hunt for New Planets TESS may uncover planets that have the right conditions for life to exist.The spacecraft, will scour the skies, monitoring more than 200,000 nearby stars for new exoplanets—planets that lie beyond our Solar System. Some of these may reside in the habitable zone of their host star, in which case, they would become targets for future missions that could assess their ability to harbor life.

A new exhibition picks apart the cultural mythologies surrounding the first “Americans”. Likenesses of American Indians have been used to sell everything from cigars He says that the cultural love affair with native peoples on display in the “Indians Are Everywhere” portion of “Americans” is nothing new.

NASA ' s Joint Confidence Level Paradox - A History of Denial 2009 Cost Estimating Symposium. The previous "can do" bravado has been supplanted by a "can do with caveats" culture . In addition to resolving the problematic estimating factor of optimism bias, there is one more variable that must be

But there was also a deeper problem. Unlike technical errors like damaged valves or scorched transducers, this problem was intangible, invisible. The tremendous schedule delays and cost overruns of the James Webb Space Telescope, Young said, were also a result of “excessive optimism” from the mission’s engineers, scientists, and program managers.

NASA had aimed high to build the world’s most powerful space telescope, capable of seeing the faint light from the most distant stars and galaxies, of detecting hints of life-giving molecules in the atmospheres of faraway planets. The nearly finished result is a tremendous feat of human ingenuity—but it exceeds an initial price tag by billions of dollars, and the initial launch date by 14 years.

Ex-NASA Engineer Made the Perfect Rock Skipping Robot

  Ex-NASA Engineer Made the Perfect Rock Skipping Robot His little robot can make over 60 skips, and teach you how to skip rocks better, too.How do you achieve the perfect rock skip? The team narrowed it down to four variables: the wrist angle of the robot (the angle of the rock relative to the water), the arm angle of the robot (which changes the path of the rock), and the rocks used (variations in diameter and thickness). To create uniform controls for robot tests, Rober and his team made their own rocks out of unfired clay (the clay discs easily dried in the sun, and dissolved in water under 30 mins).

That same week, NASA announced the discovery of what might be the most Earthlike planet yet beyond the solar system, Kepler 452b, a mere 1,400 light-years from here. In a news conference accompanying Mr. Milner’ s announcement, Geoffrey Marcy , a planet hunter from the University of

For more than a century after Darwin, altruism remained a paradox . The first glimmers of a solution arrived in a Bloomsbury pub in the early nineteen-fifties. According to legend, the biologist J. B. S . Haldane was several pints into the afternoon when he was asked how far he would go to save the life

Optimism is essential to NASA’s success. It is difficult to imagine a group of pessimistic—or even realistic—people enthusiastically setting out to do something that has never been done before, like putting a human being on the moon or a driving a robot on Mars, and then actually doing it.

“You have to be optimistic to beat gravity and to do the amazing things that NASA does,” says Lori Garver, who served as the agency’s deputy administrator from 2009 to 2013. “On the other hand, that has caused us to over-promise and make mistakes.”

Financial overruns and schedule delays are not unusual for NASA projects. Since the agency opened in 1958, several of its most high-profile missions—the Hubble Space Telescope, the Mars Curiosity rover—have launched into space well beyond their budget and timeline goals. This is, in part, because of the inherent nature of space exploration: When you’re trying to do something no one else has done before, you don’t always know how much work it will take.

NASA's Parker Solar Probe Set to Launch

  NASA's Parker Solar Probe Set to Launch The journey will last about seven years.

NASA ’ s inspector general found that the agency’s officials are too optimistic in ways which can hurt their programs. In a report released Sept. But, they wrote in their response to the report, optimism needs to permeate throughout NASA . “ NASA believes that the culture of optimism is necessary to

Yet another, third, approach to the paradox of horror comes from philosopher Berys Gaut. According to him, to be in awe or in pain, to suffer, can in some Whether Gaut’ s ingenious proposal got it right is questionable, but the paradox of horror certainly remains one of the most entertaining subjects in

“It’s almost never the case that things come in ahead of schedule, and it’s not because of failure to plan,” says Mason Peck, an engineer at Cornell University who served as NASA chief technologist between 2011 and 2013. “It’s just when you plan for that schedule, disruptions force you into the future. It’s just the nature of the beast.”

Outside government groups have spent years chastising NASA over this, arguing that the space agency could do better. In 2012, the NASA office of the inspector general published a report titled “NASA’s Challenges to Meeting Cost, Schedule, and Performance Goals.” The document was based on interviews of dozens of agency employees, including current and former administrators, the directors of various NASA facilities, and project managers. There were several major challenges, the report concluded, including an underestimation of technical complexity, funding instability, and shifting priorities from presidential administrations and Congress. And the top challenge, the report said, was NASA’s positive outlook.

NASA explains why its mission to 'touch' the sun is basically insane

  NASA explains why its mission to 'touch' the sun is basically insane NASA's Parker Solar Probe is launching this weekend on Aug. 11. Its destination: the sun.In fact, NASA stated its goal with the Parker Solar Probe is to "touch" the sun. It's sending a spacecraft "the size of a small car" directly into the sun's atmosphere.

Evidence shows ancient Mars sometimes had water on its surface. Yet climate modelers struggle to produce scenarios where its surface is warm enough to keep water unfrozen.

The Stockdale Paradox really defines the optimism that is most important in becoming a resilient person and that is, when you're faced with a challenge or a trauma, you look at that challenge objectively. You might make the assessment, 'I'm in really big trouble.' You have a realistic

“It was clear from our interviews that a culture of optimism and a can-do spirit permeate all levels of NASA, from senior management to front-line engineers,” the report said. “Although this optimistic organizational culture is essential for realizing groundbreaking scientific achievement, it can also lead to unrealistic projections about what can be achieved within approved budgets and timeframes.”

Particularly, project managers are “overly optimistic” about how much effort developing and testing new technology will take, the report said.

That’s still the case today, says Paul Martin, NASA’s inspector general, who oversees independent reviews of the agency’s programs, from Earth-observing satellites to Mars rovers. He traces the rise of this mindset—mission success above all—to the 1960s, when the United States put a man on the moon just eight years after President John F. Kennedy’s called on the nation to do so. “The optimistic and focused national goals of the Apollo program, coupled with the program’s generous funding profile, set the foundation for an organizational culture that believes nothing is impossible despite significant technical hurdles and other challenges,” Martin says.

The NASA of the Apollo era did not define mission success as meeting cost and schedule goals. These were secondary concerns. Perhaps this kind of mindset would have been sustainable if the space agency’s budget grew with each passing year to accommodate its ambitions, but it didn’t. It was only a matter of time before NASA’s goals—ever more ambitious, more technically challenging—began to chafe against the prickly realities of time and money.

NASA's New Exoplanet-Hunting Satellite Picks Up a Comet

  NASA's New Exoplanet-Hunting Satellite Picks Up a Comet NASA's recently launched TESS satellite gave its cameras a test run by pointing them at a nearby comet.After TESS's spring launch, NASA's been testing its new planet hunter's systems. As part of that test, NASA pointed the spacecraft’s cameras at recently discovered comet C/2018 N1, located nearly 30 million miles away from Earth.

The paradox is most notably recorded by Plutarch in Life of Theseus from the late 1st century. The paradox had been discussed by more ancient philosophers such as Heraclitus, Socrates, and Plato prior to Plutarch’ s writings; and more recently by Thomas Hobbes and John Locke.

Optimism is a mental attitude reflecting a belief or hope that the outcome of some specific endeavor, or outcomes in general, will be positive, favorable, and desirable.

And yet, the optimistic mindset that sent Americans to the moon hasn’t budged. “[W]hen asked to define ‘project success,’ nearly all the project managers we interviewed responded that a project was successful if it achieved its technical performance goals,” the 2012 report said. “No manager mentioned controlling cost and schedule growth as significant measures of success. Moreover, all described their projects as successful even though many had experienced adverse cost and schedule outcomes.”

Martin says NASA employees call this cognitive dissonance the “Hubble psychology.” The Hubble Space Telescope was not an immediate success when it reached space in 1990. The telescope took much longer to develop than promised, exceeded its budget, and launched with a defect in its primary mirror that took several missions to repair and maintain. But today, Hubble is considered a national treasure, and its chaotic beginnings have largely been forgotten.

“As long as you bring back—in Hubble’s case—pretty pictures, all your cost overages and schedule delays will be forgiven,” Martin says. “Because what’s important is the science at the end, not how you got there, how messy or over budget or over schedule you’ve been. That may be somewhat of an overstatement, but that’s sort of the mentality, that all sins will be forgiven if you bring back the pretty pictures.”

This is the outcome the Webb team seems to be banking on. Webb is worth the wait, program officials have said, over and over again, as the costs have mounted and the finish line moved further away. They hope the payoff will overshadow the pains of the process.

Indonesian island lifted 10 inches by deadly quake

  Indonesian island lifted 10 inches by deadly quake Scientists say the powerful Indonesian earthquake that killed more than 300 people lifted the island it struck by as much as 25 centimeters (10 inches). Using satellite images of Lombok from the days following the Aug. 5 quake, scientists from NASA and the California Institute of Technology's joint rapid imaging project made a ground deformation map and measured changes in the island's surface. In the northwest of the island near the epicenter, the rupturing faultline lifted the earth by a quarter of a meter. In other places it dropped by 5-15 centimeters (2-6 inches).

The paradox of expectations. How to avoid disappointment and achieve greatness. This tactic implies that you should generally be optimistic about things (e.g., high expectations). If disappointment or failure do come your way, simply explain why it occurred in a rational manner.

The Paradox of Undernourishment. The world produces enough calories for everyone to eat enough. So why are almost one billion people still chronically Economies are often molded by the location and cultures of which they are apart. This explains why distinct regional economies develop to serve the

Most people are optimists, research suggests. In a work setting, optimism can be an energizing force. “People enjoy being optimistic more than pessimistic,” says Julie Norem, a psychology professor at Wellesley College and author of The Positive Power Of Negative Thinking, which argues that for some people, optimism is an ineffective strategy. “They enjoy the confidence of thinking that everything is going to work, and so that can be motivating. It can lead people to potentially try something they might not try otherwise because they’re so positive and sure that it’s going to work.”

In groups, particularly those working toward a common goal, optimistic thinking can be infectious. “If you take a bunch of people working on a project and everyone has a little bit of bias—and the bias that people have is quite mild, just a little bit of an overestimation of the positive and underestimation of the negative—you put them together, and the bias just becomes bigger,” says Tali Sharot, a neuroscientist at University College London who studies the human brain’s inclination toward optimism.

In this scenario, it can be difficult for people to vocalize concerns, particularly negative ones, Norem says. “When that’s the top-down message, then it’s very hard to bring problems that you anticipate to light because nobody wants to hear them,” she said. “It ends up, in that kind of culture, taking a lot of courage to bring up the negative possibilities. Once there’s a commitment to a plan, nobody wants to hear anything against the plan.”

Garver said she saw this in action during her time as NASA associate administrator. “Honestly, it’s just everywhere,” she said. “[We] tried to encourage people to speak up but it continues to be shocking sometimes when that didn’t happen. Of course, there’s 18,000 people, 40,000 contractors. Our message for openness wasn’t enough.”

NASA looks to build a robot that can search other planets for bacteria

  NASA looks to build a robot that can search other planets for bacteria While NASA's rovers have looked for signs of life outside of our world, they haven't searched for life directly. But looking directly for life on another planet isn't easy. And the major challenge here is to develop a machine and a protocol that can effectively replicate what scientists do here on Earth. Floyd believes that a technique called fluorescent in situ hybridization is the best option for this project, and she's working on automating that process.

In literature, the paradox is an anomalous juxtaposition of incongruous ideas for the sake of striking exposition or unexpected insight. It functions as a method of literary composition and analysis that involves examining apparently contradictory statements and drawing conclusions either to reconcile

Martin’s report found the same effect. “Many interviewees indicated that project managers and senior NASA leaders are often hesitant to admit they cannot overcome technological challenges or meet mission requirements within the funding profile provided,” it said.

NASA has canceled some programs because of cost and time overruns, Martin says, but these have been smaller projects costing several hundred million dollars, a pittance compared to Webb’s lifetime cost of $9.6 billion. It’s the biggest astronomy missions—the most complex, technically challenging efforts—that are at greatest risk of missing targets and deadlines, and the most difficult to say no to, especially when so much has already been invested. “Once you’ve spent $9 billion, the thinking would be, what’s another billion?” Garver says.

Nearly 30 years after Hubble launched and taught NASA a valuable lesson, agency leaders appear to be making the same mistakes. The Government Accountability Office reported last month that NASA’s major projects have experienced average launch delays of 12 months, the worst in a decade. Perhaps the blame rests with the way humans interpret the past, says Chris Dawson, a professor at the University of Bath who studies labor economics. “Generally we blame past failures on external influences and take credits for projects that went well; this means people can discount past evidence of how long a task should take,” he says. “We forget past failures and focus on past successes.” And NASA has many successes to choose from.

Still, NASA knows budgets and schedules are finite, even as the scientific possibilities are not. About a decade ago, the agency vowed to temper its can-do attitude about a decade ago, in response to an earlier GAO report. “The Agency issued a corrective action plan that established a definition of success for its portfolio of projects,” according to the inspector general’s office. “Specifically, the agency established that success would be defined as completing its portfolio of major development projects within 110 percent of the cost and schedule baseline.” NASA said it hope to meet this criteria by 2013.

Martin says he doesn’t think it happened. NASA did not return a request for comment about this goal.

“They need to be credible and transparent to Congress and the taxpayer about what particular proposed missions will cost because it’s all about choices,” Martin said. “With a finite budget, if we do this project, then we may not be able to do that project. You can’t do everything.”

Indeed, NASA can’t do everything. But its outlook, since its very inception, has been that it can do anything. Over the years, the mindset has morphed into a mandate. NASA has become a dream factory, where imagination manifests in technology that has revealed all kinds of wonders, from distant planets to galaxy clusters, and may, someday, detect life on other worlds.

“Finding life outside our solar system and answering such a bold question—it’s hard to put a price tag on it,” Garver said. “However, I believe the taxpayer should expect us to.”

NASA looks to build a robot that can search other planets for bacteria .
While NASA's rovers have looked for signs of life outside of our world, they haven't searched for life directly. But looking directly for life on another planet isn't easy. And the major challenge here is to develop a machine and a protocol that can effectively replicate what scientists do here on Earth. Floyd believes that a technique called fluorescent in situ hybridization is the best option for this project, and she's working on automating that process.

—   Share news in the SOC. Networks

Topical videos:

usr: 1
This is interesting!