April 17, 2009

Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel Releases Annual Report

The Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel, or ASAP, has released its 2008 annual report. The report examines NASA's safety performance and advises agency and government leaders on ways to improve performance.

The ASAP is an independent group of experts that has been evaluating NASA's safety performance and advising the agency on ways to improve that performance since it was established in 1968.

"The panel members believe NASA and the new administration stand at a critical crossroads for the nation," panel Chairman Joseph W. Dyer said. "This was the driving factor in the panel's decision to provide a brief, to-the-point letter report instead of the standard lengthy annual report. It is our hope that this summary of critical safety-related issues will help stimulate and focus the discussion necessary to make those decisions."

The 11-page report covers such important issues as whether to extend the space shuttle program; Soyuz reliability and safety; the direction of exploration programs; workforce development and sustainment; and safety improvements.

Some of the panel's findings include:

- The panel strongly endorses NASA's position not to extend space shuttle operations beyond successful execution of the December 2008 manifest, which completes the International Space Station.

- The panel reports that it is not convinced the Constellation Program's Ares I launch vehicle and Orion crew module initial operating capability date can be improved appreciably by additional resources.

- The panel concludes the private sector cannot bridge the gap between the shuttle's retirement and the beginning of Constellation Program flights. There is no evidence Commercial Orbital Transportation Services vehicles will be completed in time to minimize the gap in U.S. human spaceflight capability.

The ASAP bases its advice on direct observation of NASA's operations and decision-making. In the aftermath of the shuttle Columbia accident, Congress required the ASAP to submit an annual report to the NASA administrator and Congress. This annual report examines NASA's compliance with the recommendations of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board, as well as NASA's management and culture related to safety.

For more information about the Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel and to view the 2008 report, visit: http://www.hq.nasa.gov/office/oer/asap/index.html