Includes Employees Of Contractors Tasked With Building New
According to a report issued this week by NASA's Inspector
General, the board established to review development and
construction of the agency's upcoming Orion manned spacecraft
includes six employees of companies tasked with building the
capsule... a violation of both federal law, and common-sense
The board, chaired by former Skylab astronaut Ed Gibson, was
established to scrutinize those very companies, reports The
Associated Press. But Gibson and five other boardmembers work for
NASA contractors building various components of the spacecraft.
Of the 19 members of the Orion review board, three are employed
by Science Applications International Corp. (SAIC), which is tasked
with building Orion test facilities. Two -- Gibson, and former NASA
flight director Neil Hutchinson -- are vice presidents and
Jack Garman, a former NASA employee
and key figure with the Apollo lunar program, works for Lockheed
Martin -- the prime builder of the Orion spacecraft. Two others
work for contractors MEI Technologies, and Gray Research Inc.
The IG says that's a clear conflict of interest, and wants those
six members suspended. But NASA replies it's not that easy, since
engineers qualified to make informed decisions regarding a highly
specialized spacecraft will, by definition, usually work for either
the space agency, or one of its contractors.
NASA spokesman David Steitz adds this isn't the first time the
agency has had to deal with such concerns... but that explanation
doesn't sit well with New York University professor Paul Light, an
expert on government ethics.
Light tells the AP the IG report indicates "a flagrant abuse and
Congress should investigate... Not only is NASA ready to challenge
the laws of physics, it appears more than willing to challenge the
laws of Congress."