Planetary Exploration in Extremis

Joint NASA Council Center Directors meeting, 2-3 Dec. 1980 (JPL 150, 5 51) Hans Mark comments at NAS colloquium, 26-27 Oct. 1981 ( JPL 150, 5 49). 2. J. R. Bruman memo on Salyut program, 27 Feb. 1978 ( JPL 142, 52 851) D. G. Rea to Murray, 28 Apr. 1977 ( JPL 142, 55 902) Murray to Noel Hinners, 8 July 1977 (JPL 142, 23 401) Gordon H. Pettengill to Thomas A. Mutch, 11 June 1980 (JPL 105, 1 17A). 3. William K. Hartmann to Murray, 30 July 1976 ( JPL 142, 44 723) Arthur Unger, Live from Mars after...

Defense Research and Caltech

JPL's small but growing role in defense would greatly increase in the early 1980s, motivated by the moribund state of the planetary program and the redoubled military mobilization of the Reagan administration. Lab managers realized that acquiring additional defense work required more open-ended commitments to military sponsors and, in particular, two major policy changes the acceptance of classified work and abolition of the 10 percent limit on work for outside sponsors. After the shift from...

Star Wars

When Allen came on board JPL had already undertaken two major projects for the air force Autonomous Spacecraft and Talon Gold, for acquisition, tracking, and pointing. In late 1982 they combined for about one-third of defense work, but the different institutional approaches and cultural prob lems, as Allen called them and which Murray had identified, continued to hinder relations with the air force.5 Projects like Talon Gold, which related to missile defense, soon received a tremendous boost....

Diversification

Another long-term trend helped damp the amplitude of the success-failure curve. Planetary exploration was JPL's main mission in this period but not its only one, nor was it inevitable (after all, it was not the lab's original mission). In the 1970s the lab diversified into earth sciences and astronomy, fields within NASA's purview, and these programs reduced the impact of periodic crises in the planetary program. JPL had also diversified in direct response to earlier low points, first into...

JPLs Internal Organization

JPL's organization in this period sought a balance between continuity and change, reliability and risk. Organizational inertia viewed from one perspective was a source of strength, producing the loyalty and esprit de corps that characterized JPL. But the appointment of Murray had revealed perceptions, at Caltech and JPL, that the lab had become hidebound. The sheer size of the lab contributed to inertia, as did aging staff, a lack of management turnover, and Pickering's long tenure of easygoing...

The Arroyo Center

Campus faculty opposed Star Wars programs on moral or political grounds but as a technological project, SDI meshed with JPL's disciplinary orientation, even if some scientists and engineers thought the mission technologically impossible. Different sorts of opposition arose against another defense initiative in the early 1980s, a think tank called the Arroyo Center. The Arroyo Center aimed to draw heavily on the humanities and social sciences and hence represented a disciplinary departure from...

JPL and Caltech

Allen's appointment marked a break from the convention of hiring the JPL director from Caltech, and may have thus represented a decision by the Caltech trustees and administration to increase JPL's independence from campus.10 Allen nevertheless succeeded in improving JPL-Caltech relations, perhaps because he tried that much harder to reach out to campus. Allen's military background was initially a worry for some faculty, but he defused concerns in personal engagements with professors and...

The Tilting Triangle and Commercialization

Larry Dumas, author interview 14 Nov. 2003. 2. Dumas, chronology of JPL institutional events, 26 Sept. 2001 (courtesy of Dumas). 3. JPL's institutional strategy, c. Jan. 1993, and EC meeting agenda, 1 Mar. 1993 ( JPL 165, 2 11) Stone, state of the lab, 21 Apr. 1993 (JPL 259, 42 433) Kirk Dawson, Workforce planning and allocation, 15 July 1993 ( JPL 165, 2 17). 4. Zero Base self-assessment review, 27 Feb. 1995 ( JPL 259, 50 552) Goldin talk on Zero Base review, 29 May 1995, and NASA news...

The Commercialization of JPL

The lab's tilt away from Caltech and toward NASA indicated in part its integration into the federal government, but even more it represented a shift from its original academic background to an industrial environment. The affliction of audits in the 1990s forced the lab to comply with procurement regulations and other rules developed for industrial contractors. JPL was indeed a contractor, but it was not the same thing as an aerospace company. Federal auditors nevertheless squeezed JPL's square...

JPL and the Aerospace Industry

Another persistent issue in the NASA-JPL-Caltech relationship concerned the part played by industry. As the aerospace industry matured and acquired capabilities previously monopolized by JPL, it added a fourth leg to the triangle. The issue was not new to NASA, whose predecessor agency NACA (National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics) had wrangled with aircraft companies over the performance of aeronautics R& D, or to government support of industrial research in general, which required...

Voyager Redux Galileo and Magellan

Richard Laeser, in David Swift, Voyager tales Personal views of the Grand Tour (Reston, Va., 1997), 177. 2. Richard Laeser, William I. McLaughlin, and Donna M. Wolff, Engineering Voyager 2's encounter with Uranus, Scientific American (Nov. 1986) 36-45, on 38. 3. Laeser, McLaughlin, and Wolff, Engineering, 38-39, 43 William E. Burrows, Exploring space Voyages in the solar system and beyond (New York, 1990), 315-16 Joel Davis, Flyby The interplanetary odyssey of Voyager 2 (New York, 1987), 89-90....

Acknowledgments

Two people deserve particular thanks for this book. daniel j. kevles proposed the project at Caltech and provided valuable feedback throughout its execution. Winston Gin was the prime mover at JPL and provided much good guidance to JPL's people and programs, as well as comments on successive drafts. Dan's and Winston's wisdom and friendship helped sustain me from the first outline to the final revisions, a longer road than expected. This project was performed under the auspices of Caltech, with...

Return to the Military

E.g., Thomas O'Toole, The 'militarization' of the space agency, Washington Post, 8 May 1982 Paul B. Stares, The militarization of space U.S. policy, 1945-1984 (Ithaca, 1985). 2. Aerospace Daily, 2 June 1980 O'Toole, Militarization Stares, Militarization, appendix 1. The budgets for military space programs do not include the classified budgets for reconnaissance satellites. 3. DoD program development, 21 Nov. 1975, and briefing to Murray on Research and Advanced Development, Nov. 1975 ( JPL 150,...

Microelectronics

In the 1970s JPL began converting its computer designs from hard-wired logic boards to integrated circuits, which had logic elements etched onto a semiconductor chip. The conversion capitalized on advances in the microelectronics industry in particular, the greatly increased number of elements on a single chip enabled by metal-oxide semiconductors and the flexibility afforded by programmable microprocessors. By the end of the decade circuits with so-called large-scale integration (LSI)...

The Failures

In his state of the lab address in March 1999, Ed Stone celebrated the launches of six space missions in the previous six months Deep Space 1, testing an ion-drive propulsion system Mars Climate Orbiter, Mars Polar Lander, and the Deep Space 2 surface penetrator experiment, all headed to Mars Stardust for a comet sample return and the Widefield Infrared Explorer astronomy satellite, to study evolution of distant galaxies.1 Four of them would fail. First came the Widefield Infrared Explorer,...

Voyager

Amid the drought in planetary launches, the main sustenance for planetary scientists in this period came from Voyager 2's encounters at Uranus and Neptune, which extended Voyager's triumphal tour of the outer solar system. But the encounters did not simply entail sitting back and waiting for the spacecraft to get there. On the contrary, getting there, and getting data back, required much new work. One problem had cropped up just as Voyager 2 left Saturn. The scan platform the turntable that...

Military Spinoffs

Despite the divestment of Vista, defense work made gradual inroads at JPL in the late 1970s. Two programs exemplify how JPL flight projects overlapped military interests Seasat and autonomous spacecraft. They also indicate how political disinterest in civil space missions changed attitudes toward defense programs, resulting in a mutual embrace between the lab and the military. The military took a strong interest in Seasat from the outset. As JPL staff contemplated possible payloads they...

Space Technology

Butrica, To see the unseen A history of planetary radar astronomy, NASA SP-4218 (Washington, D.C., 1996), 162-67. 2. Charles Elachi, Introduction to the physics and techniques of remote sensing (New York, 1987), 193-221 Butrica, See the unseen, 167-68. 3. Elachi, Introduction to the physics, 193-221 Elachi, Spaceborne imaging radar Geologic and oceanographic applications, Science 209 (5 Sept. 80) 1073-82. 4. Walter E. Brown, Jr., The rocket radar, unpub. manuscript, 9 Feb. 2002, and...

JPLs Internal Evolution

When Lew Allen arrived at JPL in October 1982 he did not perceive any great mandate for change and undertook no sweeping reorganization. That itself represented a change from Murray's tenure, as did Allen's pragmatic management style, which departed from Murray's more visionary initiatives. In 1987 Allen wrote, with regard to NASA's long-term goal of sending humans to Mars, we tend to set goals that are inadequately realistic. The visionary approach may be inspiring but unfortunately it causes...

Total Quality at JPL

Attitudes toward the management theories at JPL changed in the early 1990s. The shift stemmed from the changing external context and also from the change in leadership at JPL. When Stone took over as director in January 1991 he had no knowledge of TQM.9 Richard Laeser, the former Voyager manager, was working at the time as a special assistant in Stone's office. Laeser had long viewed JPL engineers as deficient in management skills he had taken a three-month course at the Harvard Business School...

Embracing the DOD

With campus approval of defense work, Murray could report to lab staff in December 1981 that during the period since last April, and especially in the last several months, we have executed a modest but significant 'mid-course maneuver.' The 30 percent limit allowed enough work to support key technical capabilities and convince the DOD of the lab's commitment, but it also ensured that NASA remained the dominant, responsible sponsor.51 Murray admitted to the faculty that JPL was changing defense...

Downsizing

Behind the post-cold war budget-cutting lay a sense that the nation needed to reduce the federal infrastructure, including that for science and technology, which had grown to meet the needs of the cold war and which a number of politicians now viewed as excessive. By October 1992 Caltech's trustees were urging JPL to preempt political pressure by starting to shrink its staff.2 The lab soon adopted an employee displacement strategy, also known as rightsizing or, more bluntly, downsizing, with...

Galileo

By 1982 the Galileo mission for a Jupiter orbiter and probe had survived repeated threats of cancellation and delays owing to launch vehicles. The original launch date of 1982 had slipped to May 1986, and a series of rede-signs from single launch to separated and back, from the solid-fuel Inertial Upper Stage booster to the liquid-fuel Centaur had doubled the cost of the mission, from 410 million to 874 million.21 The basic design of the spacecraft itself had already posed formidable...

Break in the Storm

Michael Meltzer, The Galileo mission to Jupiter (Washington, D.C., forthcoming 2006), chap. 7 David M. Harland, Jupiter odyssey The story of NASA's Galileo mission (Chichester, U.K., 2000), 56-57. 2. Meltzer, Galileo, chap. 7 John Casani interview, 9 Apr. 2004. 3. Michael Benson, What Galileo saw, New Yorker (8 Sept. 2003), 38-43 Harland, Jupiter, 57, 70-71. 4. Jim Schefter, Tragedy and triumph, Popular Science (Apr. 1994) 58-63, 94-95. 5. Lawrence Bergreen, Voyage to Mars NASA's search for...

Faster Better Cheaper

Edward Stone interview, 23 Oct. 2003. 2. Moustafa Chahine interview, 24 June 2003 MacGregor Reid interview, 28 Mar. 3. Stone interview Allen quoted in C. R. Gates to EC, summary of retreat 29 Mar.-1 Apr. 1990 ( JPL 198, 2 13). 4. E.g., Stone, Recent developments in the space program, talk to CIT executive forum, 8 June 1992 ( JPL 259, 40 392) Stone interview. 5. Wesley T. Huntress, Space science Status and outlook, presentation to CIT trustees, 30 June 1993 ( JPL 259, 32 326). 6. Charles...

The Response

The Mars failures and other mishaps punctured the self-image of JPL. Lab staff had a habit of touting the lab's superlative expertise how it attracted the smartest people and turned them loose on far-out projects. This confidence had characterized JPL since its first forays into space, but it now confronted its common fallibility. The lab fell into a funk. The malaise tapped into preexisting complaints about increasing bureaucracy and downsizing, especially at lower levels of the lab, and cast...

Dancing with the DOD

JPL originated as a military lab, and even after it shifted to NASA it never abandoned its original sponsor. In the early to mid-1970s JPL maintained a number of small defense projects, parallel to but not part of civil systems (although the civil systems work had at one time included a program called Space Technology Applications, whose benign name belied its purpose in designing weapons such as nail-laced shells and target-marking rockets for the Vietnam War).3 But most of the work was...

Reengineering JPL

Tsutsui, Manufacturing ideology Scientific management in twentieth-century Japan (Princeton, 1998), 190-235 Stephen P. Waring, Taylorism transformed Scientific management theory since 1945 (Chapel Hill, 1991). 2. Christopher Byron, How Japan does it, Time (30 Mar. 1981), 54-60, on 60. See also William G. Ouchi, Theory Z How American business can meet the Japanese challenge (Reading, Mass., 1981) Ezra F. Vogel, Japan as number one Lessons for America (Cambridge, Mass., 1979). 3. On...

An Affliction of Auditors

The issue of activism versus acquiescence also appeared in JPL's institutional relations with NASA and the federal government. The end of the cold war had another effect on the political environment, a corollary of fiscal compression. Although federal research labs had certainly suffered political scrutiny during the cold war, the contest with the Soviets also encouraged an emphasis on results instead of regulatory compliance. Thus JPL's one major experience of congressional investigation came...

JPL circa 1976

The United States in the mid-1970s entered a new era. The Vietnam War, Watergate, and the energy crisis combined to erode the confidence of a postwar generation unaccustomed to hardship. Despite d tente with the Soviet Union and rapprochement with China, the cold war continued, with a Soviet strategic arms buildup raising the nuclear stakes. American economic hegemony seemed to end, with an industrial challenge from Europe and Japan especially strong in high-tech fields. As the country tried to...

The People of JPL

The laboratory, as Murray and his senior staff recognized, was at its base a collection of people. Who were they The lab's disciplinary diversity confounds any identification of a typical employee. Hardware designers, software programmers, flight navigators, mission controllers, systems managers, quality control engineers, and research scientists all mingled in flight projects, not to mention the myriad smaller programs pursued at the lab. Several characteristics of JPL staff nevertheless may...

Questions of Identity

Diversification affected another constant issue in this history the triangular relationship among JPL, Caltech, and NASA. Work for outside sponsors, an option unavailable to NASA's other civil service centers, increased the lab's independence and helped tilt the triangle toward Caltech and JPL in the 1970s and 1980s. It swung back toward NASA in the 1990s as JPL phased out non-NASA work. Other factors weighed on the balance the personalities of the actors JPL's programmatic and administrative...

Purple Pigeons and Gray Mice Or How to Fill a Bathtub

The decline of the planetary program manifested itself at JPL first in the projected rampdown from Viking and Voyager. The Viking workforce dropped off sharply from more than 400 staff in 1975 to almost zero by 1977 Voyager would undergo a similar decline starting in 1977. The lab expected to ramp back up for the Jupiter orbiter-probe and a possible lunar orbiter starting in 1978, but that left a deep two-year dip in the graph of staff levels. Even if the Jupiter or moon missions were approved...