The loss of the space shuttle Columbia prompted an investigation to determine the factors that contributed to the accident. Essential to the investigation was collecting and analyzing data associated not only with the Columbia accident, but that of the 1987 loss of the space shuttle Challenger. Evidence from the investigation indicated that lessons learned from the Challenger were not necessarily applied to the shuttle program and may have been instrumental in the loss of the Columbia. It was determined that several factors outside of the technical and systemic systems were associated within the NASA organization and contributed to the loss of the shuttles. Addressed here are some of the factors that contributed to the tragedies. This analysis will be conducted using the Tushman-O’Reilly Congruence Model. An examination will be conducted using the building blocks of the model and the external forces that affected the performance and safety of NASA and contributed to the horrendous accidents of both previously mentioned space shuttles. Further, this paper will discuss the analysis of the data that was collected by the investigation board as it applied to the diagnosis for change. Lastly, this paper will assess the utility and relevance of the Tushman-O’Reilly Congruence Model as applied to this case. The analysis will be supported by the background information, the required readings and personal research. The Facts: Hauntingly Similar
While there were several differences between the two accidents, there were also organizational factors which were the same. The following chart indicates that there were uncanny similarities within the organizations at the time of the accidents. A review of the chart will indicate that some of the factors, such as communication and safety system, are aligned against more than one of the model’s consideration. This is due to the fact that these factors are required tasks that operate in systems that are affected by the structure and culture (or the pre-determined ideas) of the organization.
Leadership and Vision: Evolution of the US Space Program
Aggressive build up of the United States Space program began with the lunar program, Project Apollo, in 1961. This was in response to the challenge by President John Kennedy “to put a man on the moon by end of the decade” (CAIB, 2003). According Steven Dick, NASA Chief Historian, (2004), “Kennedy felt great pressure to have the United States “catch up to and overtake” the Soviet Union in the “space race.” Four years after the Sputnik shock of 1957, the cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin had become the first human in space on April 12, 1961, greatly embarrassing the U.S.” With this mandate from the President as a key component in winning the Cold War, NASA embarked upon the project with massive human and financial resources at its disposal. The President’s goal was achieved on July 20, 1969 when Neil Armstrong stepped onto the moon. The culture at NASA became that the organization was the “perfect place” capable of incapable feats. Central to the culture, as CAIB (2003) points out, was the “acceptance of risk and failure as inevitable aspects of operating in space.” 1970’s
After the success of Apollo, the political factors associated with NASA changed. As Andrew Chaikin (1999) writes, “national priorities had shifted since John Kennedy had challenged the nation to a lunar landing by decade’s end. The country was preoccupied with an ongoing struggle for civil rights and dissent over the war in Vietnam.” This coupled with the increases in inflation, shattered hopes of ever achieving NASA’s grand goals of space stations, moon bases and human missions to Mars. However, Congress and the White House retained one element of NASA’s vision, “a reusable space shuttle that would ferry astronauts to and from Earth orbit” (Chaikin, 1999). Throughout the 70’s, the focus at NASA shifted from human space flight to developing and deploying the Space...
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