February 07, 2003
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From: Gene Nelson [email him]
At 8:00 AM on Saturday, February 1, while working outside near Gainesville, I heard no rumbles, nor did I glance upward while the Columbia was disintegrating. An hour later, I was called in to view the footage on with disbelief.
As a NASA employee from 1973 to 1975, I have pondered the harm of the management push to do more with less. One area of concern is NASA's use of "fresh [i.e. inexpensive] young blood" - mostly from overseas. www.ZaZona.com tells us that NASA contractors such as Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) have applied for over 1,000 H-1B visas. Lockheed has at least 240 visa applications. That means that thousands of experienced American citizen scientists, engineers, and programmers have been displaced - with considerable specialized knowledge lost.
When the postmortem analysis is complete, it will be likely that a systemic problem will be revealed, similar to Lockheed's September, 1999 erroneous transmission of non-metric units of force to NASA-JPL that resulted in the Mars Polar Orbiter burning up while entering the Mars atmosphere. (See "Simple Error Doomed Mars Polar Orbiter," by David Perlman, San Francisco Chronicle, October 1, 1999).
It is indeed tragic that the future of manned space exploration is imperiled when management ignores the basic economic law that "you get what you pay for."
[Gene Nelson has testified before Congress on the H-1B program. His upcoming book is An American Scam - How Special Interests Undermine American Security with Endless "Techie" Gluts. E-mail him for a 22 - page special Congressional Summary.]