Members of NASA's human and robotic programs are cooperating in new ways to support the Vision for Space Exploration. The Vision calls for a "building block" strategy of human and robotic missions to reach new exploration goals. The first step in the Vision is returning the Space Shuttle safely to flight.
To that end, managers from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Pasadena, Calif., who directed the Mars Exploration Rover missions, are sharing their experience and insight with managers from NASA's Space Shuttle Program. This week, those JPL managers took part in a practice session by Shuttle mission managers at NASA's Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston. It's part of a continuing exchange of best practices. Earlier this year, Deputy Space Shuttle Program Manager Wayne Hale traveled to JPL to observe mission operations during the critical periods of landing the Mars Exploration Rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, on Mars.
"I observed the management team for the Mars rovers during some high activity periods," said Hale. "There certainly are some parallels in dealing with real time operations between human and remote robotic missions. One of those parallels is both types of programs must take the time to work through problems by getting input from all available resources before making decisions."
Hale chairs the Space Shuttle Mission Management Team that will oversee operations of the Shuttle during its Return to Flight mission, designated STS-114.
Following up on Hale's visit, members of the Mars rover team have observed the Shuttle management team in action and will provide feedback to the Shuttle team, as well as take lessons learned back to the Mars Program at JPL.
"Even though we deal with spacecraft millions of miles farther away, our management philosophy is similar to that of human spaceflight," said Pete Theisinger, former project manager for the Mars Exploration Rover Mission and current project manager for the 2009 Mars Science Laboratory mission. "Ultimately we are one team striving for mission success through detailed analysis," he said.
The full membership of the Shuttle Mission Management Team took part in this week's four-day practice session, their longest simulation thus far. The practice exercised the team's capability to provide timely and appropriate evaluation and input on issues that arose throughout the simulation.
"The Shuttle Mission Management Team focused its attention on a wide range of issues throughout this four-day simulation that required decisions dealing with hardware problems as well as programmatic issues," said Hale. "The team is peaking in its training at just about the right time as Discovery's mission draws closer," he added.
For more information about NASA's Return to Flight efforts, visit:
http://www.nasa.gov/returntoflight For more information about the Vision for Space Exploration, visit:
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