WASHINGTON -- NASA, trying to do more missions with less money and fewer people, made management mistakes that contributed to a string of recent failures in space, the chief of the agency said Wednesday.
''We probably cut too tight'' in reducing the NASA work force from 25,000 to 18,500 over the last seven years, Daniel S. Goldin, NASA's administrator, told the Senate Commerce subcommittee on space. ''We found we were really too thin.''
Goldin said the agency lost many veteran engineers over those years, and there was inadequate training and mentoring for young, inexperienced workers who were hired.
Additionally, he said, there was a failure in communication between engineers and technicians doing the work and the management personnel overseeing it.
''There was no good communication feedback,'' Goldin said. ''People were talking and we weren't hearing them.''
Sen. Bill Frist, R-Tenn., chairman of the subcommittee, said he called the hearing to get an explanation for what he called a ''very difficult'' year for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
During 1999, two NASA probes to Mars were lost without a trace; shuttle missions were delayed because of damaged or troublesome equipment; workers accidentally threw away tanks built for the International Space Station, and an urgent mission to repair the Hubble Space Telescope was required.
''For $14 billion a year, the American taxpayers deserve better,'' said Frist.
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