Xah Lee's Unixism

Rupert Pigott roo at try-removing-this.darkboong.demon.co.uk
Sat Sep 4 18:40:39 CEST 2004

Coby Beck wrote:
> "Rupert Pigott" <roo at try-removing-this.darkboong.demon.co.uk> wrote in
> message news:1094285694.404322 at teapot.planet.gong...
>>Larry Elmore wrote:
>>>Rupert Pigott wrote:
>>>"Competition for the SRB Contract"
>>>"Four companies bid for the contract to design and manufacture the solid
>>>rocket boosters (SRBs). Aerojet Solid bid the program at $655 million,
>>>United Technologies at $710 million, Morton Thiokol at $710 million, and
>>>Lockheed at $714 million. All the bids were relatively similar in both
>>>price and technology. Based on cost, the NASA advisory panel recommended
>>>that the contract be awarded to Aerojet; they believed that money could
>>>be saved without sacrificing technical quality by choosing the lowest
>>>bid. NASA administrator Dr. James Fletcher overruled this recommendation
>>Even if hypothetically superior Aerojet boosters were used I would
>>bet a life's salary that mismanagement would nail them in the end...
> You will never understand past mistakes with an attitude like that.."Oh
> well, who knows?  It could have been worse!"

That's not it at all : It's a recognition of the sickness in the
safety culture that existed.

>>Consider this : If the tables were turned and an Aerojet booster
>>exploded in the sky I'll bet the armchair QBs would be asking why
>>were Aerojet chosen over Morton-Thiokol who had more experience of
>>building large solid-fuel rockets.
> And there would have been a clear answer:  they had the lowest bid and a
> committee responsible for technical evaluation approved them.

You would get accusations that the tech.eval was approving them
to cut corners in the budget... AFAICT MT had more experience
of building that kind of gadget at the time.

Don't get me wrong : M-T & NASA fucked up, I'm not defending
them. I'm just a bit wary of pinning it on the choice of maker
when in fact it seems to be a cultural sickness that eventually
led to a *predictable* and *preventable* catastrophic failure.


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