Columbia tragedy tests crisis response

By Brian Orr
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 03/10/2003

I had begun to prepare this column on Saturday, Feb. 1 when the shocking news of the Columbia disaster quickly captured my attention for the rest of the day. While watching the TV coverage, I became fascinated by the clues to NASA’s unheralded HR management success story that day. The crisis response on that tragic day showed NASA was well prepared to face the organization’s worst nightmare, the tragic loss of seven astronauts during a space shuttle mission.

It is evident that one of the many lessons NASA learned from the Challenger tragedy in 1986 was the importance of being prepared to respond quickly if a similar event occurred.

To put the situation in context, a simple risk assessment shows that the possibility of a fatality on any given space shuttle mission was between one and two per cent. NASA needed to be prepared to respond without warning, should a tragedy occur on any mission.