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NASA OIG: Improving Management of the Astronaut Corps

Status Report From: NASA Office of Inspector General
Posted: Thursday, July 10, 2003

image National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Headquarters
Washington, D.C. 20546-0001 Reply to Attn of: W
June 27, 2003

TO: M/Associate Administrator for Space Flight Johnson Space Center
Attn: AA/Director
FROM: W/Assistant Inspector General for Auditing
SUBJECT: Improving Management of the Astronaut Corps (G-01-035)

This report was scheduled to be released in final form in February 2003. However, when the Space Shuttle Columbia and its crew were lost we decided to delay the release of the report until a more appropriate time. Now that NASA is working to recruit an Astronaut Candidate Class of 2004 that includes pilots, mission specialists, and educator astronauts, we believe that our recommendations will aid the decision-making process. The substance of this report has not been adjusted to reflect the loss of the Columbia or its crew.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

The NASA Office of Inspector General (OIG) evaluated the size and utilization of the astronaut corps.1 The OIG considered whether the NASA astronaut corps was being used effectively, was supportive of the Agency's current and future mission, and was managed in accordance with governing policies and procedures. We found that overly optimistic predictions of future flight rates, minimal regulation of astronaut candidate selection, and the need to staff engineering positions at Johnson Space Center to be factors in the Agency's astronaut hiring process. As a result, costs for the astronaut program were higher than necessary and individuals trained to be astronauts were not all being used in a manner commensurate with their expensive training. To assist the Agency in assuring that the size of the corps is more closely aligned with mission and program needs, we recommended that the Agency establish formal guidelines for certain aspects of the astronaut candidate selection process, conduct more realistic analyses of astronaut corps size needs, document reasons for deviating from those analyses, and establish formal criteria for astronaut technical assignments.

1 The findings and recommendations contained in this report are based, in part, on interviews we conducted with senior NASA employees, astronaut candidates, current astronauts, management astronauts, and former astronauts.

Report Based on Pre-February 1, 2003 Data

Full report (PDF)

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