While those in the Constellation community lament the passing of this noble effort in human history, it must be said that at least part of the blame for the program’s demise should go to NASA.
First and foremost is the agency’s continued failure at enlightening the public about its efforts and their “value-addedness” to not only the economy, but to humanity itself. In fact, those parts of the country not directly involved with the spaceflight programs apparently are not even aware of NASA’s accomplishments until an accident occurs. More striking is the fact that many NASA employees, including managers, are unaware of what Constellation is (or was).
Second, there was little effort within the program to improve efficiency and reduce costs. For example, although many meetings were held via teleconference rather than in person, it seemed there was an overabundance of teams and meetings to cover issues that could have been consolidated. Many meetings in Constellation lasted several hours, and many issues took several months of discussion and reviews before decisions were made. Turf battles among (and within) centers resulted in redundancy and lack of effective collaboration among organizations.
Despite the tentative nature of Constellation ever since the Augustine commission, some teams continue to “boondoggle,” such as a recent trip to Hawaii to assess so-called In-situ Resource Utilization.
Maybe, at least, these can serve as lessons to whoever works on the next virtual exercise in American human spaceflight.
The name of the letter writer, a Constellation engineer with NASA, has been withheld by request.