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  OIG: Review of NASA's choice of shuttle displays

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Author Topic:   OIG: Review of NASA's choice of shuttle displays
Robert Pearlman
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From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 08-25-2011 12:18 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
NASA Office of the Inspector General has completed a review of NASA's selection of display locations for the space shuttle orbiters (PDF).
NASA chose right museums for retired space shuttles, report finds

NASA's selection of display locations for retired space shuttles in California, Florida, New York and Virginia was implemented fairly and without improper influence, federal investigators reported Aug. 25.

NASA's Office of Inspector General (OIG), which provides independent oversight for the agency, reviewed NASA's selection process as a result of concerns being raised by politicians and by some of the museums who missed out on receiving one of the four prized orbiters for their state or facility.

"Disappointed applicants and some members of Congress questioned whether the agency's selection process had complied with federal law or was influenced by improper political considerations," OIG investigative counsel James Mitzelfeld said in a video released with the 26-page report. "To answer these questions, [OIG] examined the agency's process for choosing permanent display locations for the shuttle orbiters."

canyon42
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Registered: Mar 2006

posted 08-26-2011 04:21 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for canyon42   Click Here to Email canyon42     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Well, that's just swell. First, the group can't count accurately — then, instead of acknowledging the seriousness of the mistake, Bolden claims that it didn't matter anyway, because he would have chosen the same locations regardless. So pray tell, what exactly was the point of going through the whole ranking process to begin with, if the results were "immaterial" (his word) to the decision?

Robert Pearlman
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posted 08-26-2011 05:00 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The mistake, when accounted for, created a three-way tie between the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force, the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum and Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.

According to the report, the Air Force Museum "was unable to commit" that it could reimburse NASA for the delivery of an orbiter and had a smaller regional population and lesser exposure to international visitors than the Intrepid and Kennedy, which is why Bolden said he would have chosen those two over the Air Force Museum regardless.

Hart Sastrowardoyo
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From: Toms River, NJ,USA
Registered: Aug 2000

posted 08-26-2011 05:10 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Hart Sastrowardoyo   Click Here to Email Hart Sastrowardoyo     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Swell. This is just going to go over great, whether it's the "Intrepid should never have gotten an orbiter" to "Intrepid should have gotten a flown-in-space orbiter."

But I guess if one thing is to be taken from all this, it's this: There are only four orbiters, including Enterprise. Somebody, somewhere, is gonna be upset that (fill in location) didn't get one. Heck, I love Intrepid, but part of me wishes Enterprise went to Cradle of Aviation in Garden City, NY, just so it could be displayed next to Grumman's (I believe full scale) shuttle proposal, which I last saw there in the '80s....

canyon42
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posted 08-26-2011 05:23 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for canyon42   Click Here to Email canyon42     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Well, duh, of course Dayton has a smaller population than New York City. This is hardly news. And the issue of "international visitation" has already been dragged up and down, but again, why exactly should that take precedence over "geographic distribution?" As has been noted before, NYC and Washington are only a few hours apart.

My point, though, was simply this — why bother with the entire selection process, if what Bolden says is true — that he would have awarded shuttles to New York and California anyway over Dayton, because of these handpicked criteria of his?

Look, I know that with only four of them available there was no way to please everyone. But to simply dismiss a huge, glaring error in your own group's calculations as "immaterial" because it still wouldn't have changed anything is just another slap in the face to the midwest. I would have hoped that Bolden would have had more sense than to just wave it away as if it was inconsequential. Trust me, for folks in this region it is anything but.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 08-26-2011 05:37 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The selection process identified the eligible (13 out of 29) applicants and ranked the leading candidates from which Bolden would make the decision. From the start, it was always the Administrator's decision to make.

canyon42
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posted 08-26-2011 06:16 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for canyon42   Click Here to Email canyon42     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I KNOW that. But just dismissing this report as irrelevant is a big faux pas, in my opinion. I thought he was smarter than that.

Robert Pearlman
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Registered: Nov 1999

posted 08-26-2011 06:35 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Keep in mind, Bolden's comment that the error being "immaterial" to his decision was as part of his discussion with the OIG, and not in response to this report being released or its findings.

But I'm not sure how else Bolden could have responded. Even if the error in scoring hadn't occurred and a three-way tie was delivered to Bolden's desk for his consideration, the fact that the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force was itself unable to commit to meeting the requirements of the orbiter disposition process — as late as a day before the planned announcement — would have handicapped its consideration just the same.

Fra Mauro
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From: Maspeth, NY
Registered: Jul 2002

posted 08-26-2011 10:15 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Fra Mauro   Click Here to Email Fra Mauro     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I agree that if New York had to get an orbiter, it belonged on Long Island, not in Manhattan. The problem was probably financing and the Cradle would have to build a new annex to house the shuttle. Honestly, though, I didn't expect the review to come to any other conclusion.

Murph
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From: New York, NY USA
Registered: Jan 2005

posted 08-26-2011 11:46 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Murph   Click Here to Email Murph     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Of the three aviation museums in the New York City area only the Intrepid could raise the necessary funds to house the space shuttle. I am a member of all three, and have spoken on numerous occasions to their curators, who are always watching their bottom line.

The Cradle, and you will never see a more beautiful aviation museum, has neither the room or funding, as could be said of The American Air Power Museum, also in Long Island. All three have awesome collections, including a lunar module, jet fighters and WWII vintage aircraft. Several years ago I flew on a B-17 which often visits the Air Power Museum, which has an active runway. Beautiful places, all.

But only the Intrepid was prepared to raise the necessary money in these tough economic times. And Long Island is not New York City. My office is less than two miles from the Cradle, I have been there many times,and attended their lectures and dinners; they simply do not get the visitors or opportunity for exposure that NASA wanted for a shuttle.

Unfortunately, the USAF Museum took themselves completely out of the running at the last minute, regardless of their score. Its a moot point.

isaacada1
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From: Greater Seattle, WA USA
Registered: Mar 2011

posted 08-26-2011 12:49 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for isaacada1     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Has anyone found the ranking list seeing which institution ranked where? Curious how some of them ranked and how close or not close they were.

kr4mula
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From: Cinci, OH
Registered: Mar 2006

posted 08-26-2011 01:45 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for kr4mula   Click Here to Email kr4mula     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
And here I thought I had gotten over all this

What strikes me is this passage from the report:

Bolden told the Team that he did not believe a location’s connection to the Space Shuttle Program or to NASA generally should be a consideration in deciding where to place the Orbiters. Rather, it was Bolden’s preference that the Agency choose locations where the Orbiters would be seen by the largest number of visitors and thus serve NASA’s goal of expanding outreach and education efforts to spur interest in science, technology, and space exploration. Accordingly, he instructed the Recommendation Team that in addition to the criteria of attendance and regional population, NASA should also consider a location’s access to international visitors and place the most emphasis on these three factors. According to a written summary of the meeting by one Team member, '[s]trongest preference cited a geographic placement that offers the greatest potential foot traffic, regional and international access.'
Relevance to NASA/shuttle is irrelevant? Regional population and international access are #1 criteria? Was there any time Bolden mentioned these significant decisions to anyone outside of the bidding team? If he had let those things be known, then an awful lot of places could have saved themselves a lot of time and money (which could've been better spent doing more useful things) by not getting involved in the process.

I find it ridiculous that Bolden kept these things under wraps. He basically disqualified any place but where the orbiters ended up going. I guess as the old aerospace adage goes, if you get to write the specs, you get the answer you want.

It seems to me that regional population is irrelevant if you consider attendance. Why does it matter if you have a billion people near the site if no one actually goes to your facility? As I (and others have pointed out) the largest cities with the largest number of international visitors (a criteria I won't even get into this time) have so many attractions that the pool of visitors is extremely diluted.

Interestingly, the initial chart shows that only the NMUSAF and KSC scored a 15 in actual attendance, meaning more people would see the orbiters there than any place else. That was inexplicably revised on the later chart.

The report notes that it had difficulty finding a "final" chart, which appeared mysteriously later with the NMUSAF mistakenly scored lower and with some changes in favor of the winning museums. Conspiracy? Of course, one might question future KSC visitor numbers in the post-shuttle lull, but that's getting off track.

All that said, the issue of the Air Force only committing to $14 million is something that our local media hasn't mentioned at all, nor have I heard museum officials talk about that. There has always been discussion of the necessity for the Air Force to pay the full amount (or any) as a government-to-government transfer. I would think that argument would have some traction, given that NASA absolved the NASM of any costs. As it was, this was a fatal flaw for the NMUSAF, unfortunately for them.

Robert Pearlman
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Posts: 27328
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 08-27-2011 02:54 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by kr4mula:
...by not getting involved in the process.
The process was already underway when Bolden took office as Administrator. The recommendation team had been formed and the first RFI had solicited responses from museums.

Had Bolden disbanded the entire process when he came in, assuming he was even inclined to do so, he would have risked Congress or some outside entity demanding control of the decision — a scenario most of the museums I spoke with said was less than desirable.

All times are CT (US)

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