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A description of the culture and subcultures within nasa

Mental processes Work habits These ten classes offer a simple model not only for assessing an existing culture but also for planning a new one, such as a culture in space. Although there are other characteristics for cultural analysis such as rewardsanalysis of the listed characteristics would be sufficient to prepare for a startup space community, such as that of the crew at a space station or a lunar outpost.

Because culture is so multifaceted and pervasive in human behavior, we cannot simply impose one form of Earth culture on a space community. Nor can space technologists continue to ignore the implications of culture Hall 1985. If the space population is to be increased and broadened, so should the composition of space planners and decision-makers as happened in miniature with the multidisciplinary group of participants at the 1984 NASA summer study at the California Space Institute.

Organizational Culture in NASA and the Aerospace Industry Culture has already unconsciously affected our future in space through the organizational cultures of the chief developers of space technology. A distinctive culture has emerged in the past 25 years within NASA itself, and this in turn has influenced the corporate cultures of NASA's principal contractors. NASA has been an atypical government agency that has been innovative in both technology and management, as well as in its relations with contractors Harris 1985.

When NASA was established as a civilian Government entity in 1958, it inherited cultural biases from the several organizations from which it was derived. It acquired many of the traditional characteristics of Federal public administration, being subject to the constraints of Civil Service regulations, annual budget battles, congressional and lobby pressures, and changing public opinion Levine 1982.

Since it was chartered to be mainly a research and development organization, NASA was dominated by the subcultures of the scientific, technological, and engineering fields. Its interface with the military and its astronaut personnel from the Armed Forces provided another stream of cultural influence. The introduction of the German rocket specialists under Wernher von Braun provided further cultural input, as have numerous academics and their universities, beginning with Robert Goddard of Clarke University and coming right down to participants in the latest NASA summer study on the campus of the University of California, San Diego.

To broaden its constituency further, NASA is attempting to reach out to nonaerospace business and involve companies in space industrialization; to expand its cooperative efforts with other Government departments, from weather and transportation to commerce and defense; to engage in joint endeavors with national academies and associations, such as the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics AIAA.

The ongoing history of NASA manifests continuing alterations of its culture from crises e. Just as groups of people develop national or macrocultures, so too do human institutions develop organizational or microcultures. NASA as an organization is a collection of humans who have set for this system objectives, missions, expectations, obligations, and roles.

It has a unique culture which is influencing the course of space development. The NASA culture begins by setting organizational boundaries and powerfully affects the morale, performance, and productivity of its employees.

Eventually, this influence spreads to contractors and suppliers. This statement from the first item enunciated demonstrates a future trend in NASA culture: Provide our people a creative environment and the best of facilities, support services, and management support so they can perform with excellence NASA's research, development, mission, and operational responsibilities. Government Executive, October 1983, p.

The fact that NASA successfully completed its Apollo lunar missions would seem to indicate that its organizational culture was adequate. Since then, budget cuts, loss of talented personnel, and the Challenger accident have a description of the culture and subcultures within nasa up the need for cultural renewal. In 1986, as a result of the report of The Presidential Commission on the Space Shuttle Challenger Accident, reorganization got under way following the appointment, once again, of James C.

The issue of concern now is whether the agency's cultural focus will enable NASA to provide global leadership in the peaceful and commercial development of space. As NASA struggles with "organization shock," external forces demand that priority be given to military and scientific missions, leaving commercial satellite launchings and industrialization to the private sector.

Confusion reigns over replacement of the fourth orbiter, development of alternative launch capability, and space station plans, so that NASA is an organization in profound transition, requiring transformational leadership Tichy and Devanna 1986. As an example of the way NASA culture affects its space planning and management, consider the well documented fact that the agency is leery of the behavioral sciences Harrison 1986, Hall 1985, Douglas 1984.

Since the organization is dominated by a technical mindset, it is uncomfortable with social scientists and their potential contributions. A Strategy for Space Life Sciences, and by requests for increased spending on the behavioral sciences in the FY89 budget. As human presence in space is expanded with long-duration missions, NASA planners will have to confront issues of interpersonal and group living a description of the culture and subcultures within nasa until recently they avoided Connors, Harrison, and Akins 1985.

In interviews by flight surgeon Douglas 1984 with astronauts, the latter expressed regrets that they and their families did not benefit more from the services of psychiatrists and psychologists, particularly with reference to group dynamics training.

Oberg 1985 reveals that, on the other hand, in the culture of their space program, the Soviets are more prone to utilize such specialists.

In fact, that author quotes the Soviet head of space biomedicine, Dr.

  1. Problems may arise from the disruption of an individual's circadian rhythm, the effects of the gravity-free environment, the stress of lack of privacy, and the effects of lengthy space stays. The interplanetary experience may prove to be more profound than cross-cultural experiences here on Earth.
  2. Finney and Jones 1985 Anthropologist Finney and astrophysicist Jones remind us that it is the species called " wise" -Homo sapiens-which evolved biologically and adapted culturally so as to populate and make a home of this planet.
  3. Beliefs People's lives, attitudes, and behavior are motivated by spiritual themes and patterns which may take the form of philosophy, religion, or transcendental convictions.

Oleg Gazenko, as stating that the limitations to human living in space are not physical but psychological p. My purpose here is simply to bring to the reader's consciousness the reality that NASA does have a culture and that culture pervades its decisions, plans, operations, and activities. One might even take the chapter headings of the volume Corporate Cultures and use them to assess NASA's values, heroes, rites and rituals, communications, and tribes Deal and Kennedy 1982.

As reported in a variety of contemporary management books, from the one just mentioned to In Search of Excellence, research supports the conclusion that excellent organizations have strong functional cultures. Since its founding, NASA surely has created its share of space leaders, legends, myths, beliefs, symbols, visions, and goals-the stuff of meaningful organizational cultures.

But, as Peters and Waterman reminded us, In the very institutions in which culture is so dominant, the highest levels of true autonomy occur. The culture regulates rigorously the few variables that do count, and provides meaning. But within those qualitative values and in almost all other dimensionspeople are encouraged to stick out, to innovate. Peters and Waterman 1982 Thus, if NASA is to provide the world with the technological springboard into the 21st century, these questions are in order: Does NASA now have the necessary innovative and entrepreneurial culture to provide leadership for its own renewal and the enormous human expansion into space?

Or is it trapped inside both bureaucratic and technical cultures that inhibit its contributions to the next stage of space development? Has NASA adequately redefined and projected its present organizational image and purpose to its own personnel, the Congress, and the public at large? Or is it suffering again as it did after three astronauts were killed in the Apollo capsule fire from an identity crisis and a dysfunctional culture? As NASA moves beyond its institutional beginnings into the next stage of organizational development, maturation would seem to require transformation.

Perhaps the present structure is no longer suitable for this growth process and it needs to become a more autonomous agency. Does the Tennessee Valley Authority provide a model for this structural change?

However, in 1986 the trend was being reversed with demand for strong headquarters management and inauguration of a new technical management information system.

To meet the space challenges of the future, NASA would do well to consider planned changes in its own organizational culture. Technological, economic, political, and social changes by 2010 will demand such adjustments, and many present organizational structures, roles, operations, and arrangements such as a centralized mission control will be obsolete.

Emergence of a New Space Culture The habitation of Skylab, Spacelab, Salyut, and Mir by a few dozen humans is the precedent not only for space station life but also for space culture. Whether astronauts or cosmonauts, they were humans learning to cope with a new environment marked by a lack of gravity. For most, it appears to have been an enjoyable experience, despite minor inconveniences caused by space sickness or excessive demands from experiment controllers on the ground.

Whether inside or outside the space suits and capsules, these people learned to adapt and a description of the culture and subcultures within nasa proved that human life in space is possible, even practical. These innovators simply transported into space the macroculture of the country that sponsored their space voyage.

In the decade of the 1990s, the duration of missions and the number of humans in space will increase as more permanent types of space stations are constructed in orbit and expanded in size. Perhaps the Americans will name these initial space communities after their space pioneers and heroes, like Goddard, Von Braun, and Armstrong; while the Russians may name theirs after space luminaries like Tsiolkovsky, Korolev, and Gagarin.

Then the real challenge of creating a new space culture will get under way. A major human activity of the 21 st century will be the building of space communities. Congress that would authorize NASA to provide leadership in space settlements. The issue for consideration now is whether this process will be planned or unplanned.

In the United States, for example, there exists a description of the culture and subcultures within nasa whole body of literature and research in cultural anthropology that could be most useful in the design of a space culture. Anthropologists are beginning to probe this new reality and to look for insights their field can contribute see Finney's paper in this volume. Will NASA, for example, use the nation's anthropologists in the planning of a lunar base?

Perhaps NASA should join with its colleagues in the Japanese and European space agencies in sponsoring a summer study of behavioral scientists to address matters related to the emerging space culture.

Space gives us an opportunity to establish a living laboratory to promote peaceful international relations. For example, suppose the sponsors of a particular space station or base were to have as a goal the establishment of a synergistic society on the high frontier.

Anthropologist Ruth Benedict and psychologist Abraham Maslow have already provided us with a glimpse of human behavior under such circumstances.

Imagine a space community in which the cultural norms supported collaboration and cooperation rather than excessive individualism and competition. Such considerations take on special relevance in light of proposals for a joint U.

A space culture that espouses synergy might have a better chance for survival and development than one that did not. We should have learned something from the debacle of Fort Raleigh in 1594, the first "lost colony" of our English forebears.

A description of the culture and subcultures within nasa

Since culture formation seemingly occurs in response to the physical environment, consider briefly the situation faced by those seeking to establish the first permanent community on the Moon, a base from which we can explore other planets in the universe.

It is a remote, alien environment. The longterm inhabitants would have to adapt their culture to cope with isolation, for they would be a quarter of a million miles away from home, family, and friends on Earth. The physical realities of life on the Moon would a description of the culture and subcultures within nasa its inhabitants to adapt their earthbound culture Pitts 1985.

Remember, the Moon lacks atmosphere, there is no weather there, and there are various kinds of radiation which require protective cover. Back in 1969, astronauts Armstrong and Aldrin confirmed that the lunar surface was firm and could support massive weight. During the last visit to the Moon, Apollo 17, the first professional scientist on these missions, Dr.

Harrison Schmitt, conducted geological studies, so we now have some idea of the composition of this body. But there is much we still do not know about the Moon, such as the nature of its poles and whether any of its craters were formed volcanically. Before the turn of this century, it would seem advisable for NASA to follow a Soviet lead and undertake automated missions to gather lunar data if we are to plan adequately for the new space culture on the Moon's surface.

It would require new technology development to exploit lunar resources and define the site for a research outpost and lunar base. The first two phases of site development would rely on automated and cybernated systems. In the third phase, permanent human occupancy by a small group of "astrotechnicians" is projected; then, in the fourth phase, an advanced base with more people would result, possibly by the year 2010.

To illustrate why serious preparations for a Moon base should include studies of space culture by social scientists, let us view figure 13 A rendering of the Characteristics of Space Culture in the context of a lunar base. Sense of Self Self-identity and self-acceptance are manifested differently in different cultures. The comfort we feel with ourselves and others, the physical or psychological space we maintain between ourselves and others-these are products of culture.

For an international crew on a space station, as an example, there would be differing needs for privacy or personal space. One can speculate as to whether an international community on the Moon should, for the purpose of fostering such comfort, be structured as an open or a closed society. Personally, I would recommend an open, friendly, informal, and supportive community, such as expatriates often maintain among themselves when far away from their mother country.

Though the society of expatriates may be seen as closed to the surrounding society on Earth, such a perspective would be irrelevant in space where humans are alone. Communication Much of our terminology may be inappropriate for the lunar experience. In space, we will need a new vocabulary to replace "up and down" and "day and night.