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The Value of a Sustained Maintenance Program

Safety Message

Maintenance of infrastructure has been a popular topic for news media this past year, with outlets reporting on the degradation of dams, bridges and even the U.S. highway system. At NASA, the challenge of balancing rising maintenance costs and renovating, replacing or repurposing decades-old infrastructure grows with the end of each major program and with flat or declining budgets.

In 2014, the cost of not performing maintenance on a low-risk system became apparent when Langley Research Center’s Transonic Dynamics Tunnel suffered a cooling coil breach and subsequent water intrusion. Due to the unique operating parameters of the tunnel, mitigating the leak was a lengthy and challenging process. Moreover, the inoperative tunnel lost Langley potential testing revenue upwards of $2 million. Although a series of fiscally sound decisions may prevent systematic maintenance in the short run, we must be aware of the long-term risk involved with every system.

NASA and Unmanned Aircraft Systems

Safety Message

NASA projects are flying Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) at an ever-growing rate to complete scientific research, assist other government agencies with emergency response and learn how to safely navigate the National Airspace System along with crewed aircraft. While many weigh just a few pounds, measure flight time in minutes and are limited to line-of-sight control, some weigh thousands of pounds, have international range and utilize satellite-link control. A wide range of potential issues exist.

What are the rules? Who helps researchers and operators understand and follow them? This month's message focuses on SMA requirements for UAS operations in a world of change.

What Role Does NASA Leadership Play in NASA Safety?

Safety Message

Any time there’s a lull in mishaps or high-visibility close calls, we have a natural tendency to shift focus to other demanding areas (cost, schedule, program risks). This can distract us from noticing the subtle clues that indicate that the next serious incident is about to occur.

Weak signals of danger are always evident, even if we do not notice them over the demands of daily activities. Attentiveness is the single most valuable habit to develop during these lulls. Everyone in the organization can and should stay vigilant to spot these signals and know what to do when they encounter one. In addition, when an indicator is identified, the organization needs to determine if it constitutes an acceptable risk, or if action is necessary.

This month's Safety Message examines situations when signals appeared and were missed, or when a signal was communicated but the risk was not understood.

Backover Accidents: Preventable Tragedies

Safety Message

Every year, thousands of children — about 50 a week in the U.S. — are harmed because drivers who were backing up did not see them. These incidents often take place in residential driveways or parking lots. Most of them involve large vehicles, like trucks, vans and SUVs. Most of them involve a parent or close loved one behind the wheel. Please take some time out of your day to reflect on these figures and what you can do to keep your own family and those around you safe.


Return To Flight

Safety Message

This seven-elements approach systematically identifies weaknesses within a given "prove it's safe" argument for flight approval, allowing mitigation options to be discussed. Thus, those with the power to say "yes" to residual flight risk can better understand what is being accepted.

February Is For Remembrance

Safety Message

At 7:45 p.m. on April 20, 2010, four British Petroleum and Transocean VIP’s landed aboard Deepwater Horizon for a Management Visibility Tour. The agenda: to credit the crew for 7 years with no lost-time injuries, and to check workplace conditions for occupational hazards found recently on other rigs. Seven hours later, the worst oil rig blowout and offshore spill in U.S. history transpired. Had there been focus on process safety, in addition to Institutional Safety, the blowout may have been averted. 

The Cost of Silence

Safety Message

From the Challenger and Columbia disasters, to the Costa Concordia running aground, to the recent ISS EVA 23 event, all have involved normalization of deviance and groupthink. Understanding the symptoms of these two conditions can help us plan for them, avoid them and stop them.

Safety and Mission Success Review

Feature Video

The Safety and Mission Success Review (SMSR) video provides an introduction to the SMSR, which is a voice-recorded, predecisional briefing co-chaired by the NASA chief of Safety and Mission Assurance and the NASA chief engineer. The purpose of the SMSR is to independently assess the readiness to proceed with a NASA mission, both human and robotic, as well as test flights and demonstrations of commercially developed launch vehicles and spacecraft.

Student and Intern Safety

Safety Message

It doesn't have to be spectacular to hurt. A lot of people get hurt doing unspectacular things, such as preparing food, cutting across lawns, tripping on floor mats and lifting and moving objects. People also get hurt when they are unfamiliar with their workplace and the associated hazards.

What NASA does is risky. When we bring new people on board, it is imperative that we train them in general safety practices and specific hazards of the job and environment. Managers need to be sure that all employees are aware of what they need to do to work safely. All NASA employees need to know what to do in an emergency and how to report safety concerns. Preventing unspectacular mishaps will help prevent larger and more serious mishaps.

NASA Contract Quality Assurance Requirements Clarified in Revised Policy

Policy Byte

Brian Hughitt discusses how NPR 8735.2B was updated to reflect NASA's current strategic vision, priorities and resources.

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Featured Video

Feature Videos

Learn about the Office of Safety and Mission Assurance, its disciplines and programs, and much more in these feature videos.

Safety Message

Safety Messages

Guest speakers deliver the monthly Safety Messages in these live recordings.

Knowledge Bytes

Knowledge Bytes

These short videos provide expert insight on various safety and mission assurance topics.

Policy Bytes

Policy Bytes

Policy owners explain recent changes to policies and standards in these short videos.

Event Videos

Event Videos

Video captures of live events on Safety and Mission Assurance topics.