NASA accused of breaking safety rules in rush to launch Discovery

Some members of a safety taskforce have accused NASA of cavalierly rushing to get Shuttle back in orbit. In their report, a group on the taskforce said NASA managers showed the same "disturbing" behavior, including poor leadership and smug management that contributed to the loss of Columbia, in 2003.

The group now berating NASA is the same one that chastised the agency this summer for planning to go ahead with the launch despite failing to meet three of the 15 safety upgrades recommended by the investigators of the Columbia disaster. While acknowledging that the clarity of hindsight is a wonderful thing, the report goes on to say: "We expected that NASA's leadership would set high standards for post-Columbia work ... We were, overall disappointed ... It appears to us that lessons that should have been learned have not been," according to a Guardian report.

The Shuttle Columbia broke up in the atmosphere as it returned to Earth in February 2003. An investigation revealed that a hole had been punched in its heat shield by a piece of falling insulation foam, resulting in the destruction of the craft.

The group, a minority on the panel, appended its criticisms to the main report from the taskforce, reports the Register.

According to Guardian criticism by the seven, who included a former shuttle astronaut and a former rocket engineer, was appended to the taskforce's final report which was published Thursday.

The group criticized NASA for describing the fuel tank as "safer", the "safest ever" and "fixed" when there was no evidence to support these claims.

They also accused managers of adjusting "performance standards" when targets did not meet the launch schedule.

"When achievements are mandatory at first but become 'goals' when the going gets tough, it sends a strong message to everyone that nothing is mandatory," they concluded.

They said personalities had been allowed to dominate over process. "Roles, positions and strength of personality often determined critical outcomes more than facts and analysis."

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