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National Aeronautics and Space Administration


Unmanned Space Project Management

Surveyor and Lunar Orbiter



THE space program is, by nature, an activity that encompasses a number of discrete projects, each aimed toward achieving specific objectives within a finite period. Like many other advanced-technology enteprises, NASA has relied heavily on the techniques of organizing manpower and physical resources into project structures to achieve goals involving specified cost, schedule, and performance requirements.

In one sense, there is little new or unique about project management. Much that has been achieved in human progress has come by dedicating and organizing human energies and physical resources to meet specific goals. Modern industrialized society has become dependent on this type of management to a higher degree than ever before. Not only in the areas of hard sciences but also in the fields of social, economic, and political affairs, there is an increasing tendency to tackle problems through a project approach.

Despite the long history of project management, we still know relatively little about what might be called its human aspects-what kinds of people fit into a project organization, what effect project assignments have on professional development, how institutions and their employees are affected by the discontinuities that are a necessary concomitant of project management. We still have much to learn about how to make the most of the potential offered by project management while minimizing the side effects.

The following seeks to draw some lessons from the experience gained in two NASA projects. There are inherent drawbacks to such an approach in that the events themselves are relatively recent; the perspective is therefore quite close, and dispassionate judgments are difficult to reach without the softening of time. There are, on the other hand, values to such an examination while memories are still fresh and source materials readily available. Inevitably, there are disagreements with the final results; in the evolution of programs and institutions, this can be healthy. The cause of learning is not best served by reporting only on successes; im-portant contributions come from experience with difficulties and problems. Although there are obvious limits on the extent to which valid generaliztions can be drawn from only two sets of experiences, this study represents a useful addition to a limited literature.

For readers familiar with aerospace programs, the study may provide a new look at familiar ground. For those from other fields, it may offer a bridge by which management experience from two aerospace projects can pass to their areas of specialization.



Associate Administrator

National Aeronautics and

Space Administration