NASA Administrator Richard Truly gave the beleaguered space agency's employees a pep talk Friday, saying NASA "does have its act together" despite a series of frustrating setbacks.
"This has been a busy and a long, dry and sometimes vexing summer for me and . . . all of you in NASA. There's been a lot going on - budget fights, successes, some setbacks and some failures," Truly said."First of all let me just say that I believe we are continuing to do business in a measured and professional manner. That some things haven't gone right this summer, but you are doing the right things," he said.
The 15-minute talk was televised live on NASA's internal communications system from Truly's office at NASA headquarters in downtown Washington to NASA's 24,000 employees at around the country. However, NASA took the unusual step of blocking the broadcast to news media, but a public audio line was inadvertently left open.
Les Gaver, an executive with NASA's communications system, said he decided to broadcast the address only to NASA employees because Truly "wanted to have a personal talk to employees . . . to build up their morale."
Morale at the space agency has plummeted in the wake of a series of problems that began in May when engineers were shocked to discover the $1.5 billion Hubble Space Telescope had a defect that prevented it from focusing properly.
That blunder was followed by a series of elusive fuel leaks that have prevented any space shuttle from blasting off since April. The latest leak occurred Monday, foiling the shuttle Columbia's fourth attempt to take off on an astronomy mission.
Combined with questions about the feasibility of the proposed $30 billion space station Freedom and other snags, NASA has come under a barrage of criticism and questions about whether fundamental changes are needed at the agency.
The problems have come as a cost-conscious Congress is considering the agency's budget request, which includes a large increase to for the space station and other programs key to the agency's future.