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NASA Puts Jet Propulsion Lab on Blast Over Psyche Mission Failures


This independent review board pulled no punches.

On Sight

The California Institute of Technology’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory is on notice from NASA after a review found serious staffing issues that led to the Psyche Mission failing to launch.

As multiple NASA-watchers have noted, the agency seems mighty upset with the JPL after an independent review board found that several issues at the lab led to the repeated slip of the launch of the Psyche Mission, which is set to investigate a rare metal asteroid that could be worth a reported $10 quintillion dollars if mined.

According to the report, which was conducted by a 15-person team led by retired NASA heavy hitter Tom Young, the JPL didn’t have enough experienced staff to cover Psyche. Moreover, it found, the lab’s management didn’t give it enough attention. Some “major communication failures” between levels of management seemed to exacerbate it all.

Additionally, the “post-pandemic work environment” seemed to create further issues with the project, the report found. All together, these problems “are having a significant adverse impact on the implementation of JPL flight projects.”

Ring the Alarm

The report notes that although Psyche team members “raised alarms” about these issues, they didn’t think anyone at any level of management was actually taking them seriously. It’s hard to argue with that assessment given that, per the report, the project’s managers didn’t recognize these problems “until it was too late to resolve them in time for a 2022 launch.”

“A culture of ‘prove there is a problem’ led to important issues raised by team members being disregarded,” the report added.

NASA’s Planetary Science Division Director, Dr. Lori Glaze, said during a press conference that the VERITAS Venus Mission is going to have to be delayed from 2028 to 2031 due to issues caused by JPL’s failure to launch Psyche (which is now set to be launched next fall).

“Corrective actions are urgently needed,” the report concluded, “and failure to act will result in more ‘Psyches’ and potentially in-flight failures.”

Such accusations are jarring to hear — but in the age of repeated mission slips, they’ll undoubtedly be taken seriously.

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