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Inside NASA

High Technology and Organizational Change in the U.S. Space Program

Howard E. McCurdy

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Winner of the Henry Adams Prize from the Society for History in the Federal Government

Inside NASA explores how an agency praised for its planetary probes and expeditions to the moon became notorious for the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger and a series of other malfunctions. Using archival evidence as well as in-depth interviews with space agency officials, Howard McCurdy investigates the relationship between the performance of the American space program and NASA's organizational culture. He begins by identifying the beliefs, norms, and practices that guided NASA's early successes…

Winner of the Henry Adams Prize from the Society for History in the Federal Government

Inside NASA explores how an agency praised for its planetary probes and expeditions to the moon became notorious for the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger and a series of other malfunctions. Using archival evidence as well as in-depth interviews with space agency officials, Howard McCurdy investigates the relationship between the performance of the American space program and NASA's organizational culture. He begins by identifying the beliefs, norms, and practices that guided NASA's early successes. Originally, the agency was dominated by the strong technical culture rooted in the research-and-development organizations from which NASA was formed. To launch the expeditions to the moon, McCurdy explains, this technical culture was linked to an organizational structure borrowed from the Air Force ballistic-missile program. Changes imposed to accomplish the lunar landing—along with the normal aging process and increased bureaucracy in the government as a whole—gradually eroded NASA's original culture and reduced its technical strength.

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Inside NASA

Howard E. McCurdy

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Reviews

Reviews

McCurdy is surely on the right track. His valuable book makes the literature on organizational cultures accessible and reveals new ways to look at high-technology agencies.

About

Book Details

Publication Date
Status
Available
Trim Size
6
x
9
Pages
232
ISBN
9780801849756
Table of Contents

Preface
Acknowledgments
Introduction: NASA's Organizational Culture
1. Building Blocks
2. Root Assumptions
3. Breaking Barriers
4. Becoming Conventional
5. Losing the Technical Culture
Conclusion

Preface
Acknowledgments
Introduction: NASA's Organizational Culture
1. Building Blocks
2. Root Assumptions
3. Breaking Barriers
4. Becoming Conventional
5. Losing the Technical Culture
Conclusion: Governmental Performance and Cultural Instability
Appendix: NASA Culture Survey
Essays on Sources
Notes
Index

Author Bio
Featured Contributor

Howard E. McCurdy

Howard E. McCurdy is a professor in the School of Public Affairs at American University and the author of Faster, Better, Cheaper: Low-Cost Innovation in the U.S. Space Program; Inside NASA: High Technology and Organizational Change in the U.S. Space Program; and the coauthor of Robots in Space: Technology, Evolution, and Interplanetary Travel, all published by Johns Hopkins.