Age 52, Scott Hubbard was a longtime NASA official. With degrees in physics and astronomy, he had risen through the ranks of NASA-Ames and was associate director of that laboratory at the time he got his call from Goldin. A week after NASA announced Hubbard’s appointment, Stone at JPL reluctantly named Fir – ouz Naderi to be his counterpart as the single point of contact on Mars. Stone had wanted Naderi for a different assignment, but headquarters prevailed. It was made clear by Weiler’s deputy, Earle Huckins, that “Dan Goldin wanted the very best talent applied to fixing the Mars program.”49 Like Hubbard, Naderi was a veteran scientist-manager but had not been directly connected with the two Mars failures. The two men—Hubbard and Naderi—did not know one another, but they “clicked.” Hubbard, however, kept reminding Naderi that he was a “NASA-man,” not a “JPL-man.” Naderi went out of his way to come across in that way in his dealings with Hubbard—and JPL. There was much anxiety on Stone’s part that JPL would be punished for the failures and lose its prized position as lead center for planetary missions.50 He had reason to be worried, as there were severe critics ofJPL in NASA Headquarters. One senior official urged Goldin to replace JPL top management.51
The third key member of the recovery team was James Garvin. Garvin was a scientist at NASA-Goddard who had been a graduate student at Brown under Tim Mutch, the Viking investigator and briefly NASA associate administrator for science. Garvin had worked on Mars Observer and had been leading the Decadal Planning Team for Goldin on NASA’s long-term future. Goldin himself asked Garvin to join Hubbard and Naderi. Garvin was to play a major role in developing a strong connection between the team and the broader Mars technical community.52 Hubbard wanted to reach beyond NASA and its various elite advisors to Mars investigators generally. Garvin was to help assemble a series of workshops with Mars scientists who thereby would provide input to the recovery team’s decisions. These workshops would evolve into a novel mechanism, the Mars Exploration Program Analysis Group (MEPAG), which would become an ongoing connection between NASA and the broader Mars research community.
Finally, Hubbard asked two Viking veterans, Jim Martin and Gentry Lee, to serve as advisors. They would be the core of Hubbard’s “kitchen cabinet.” Weiler had already set some guidelines for the new program, but it would be up to Hubbard and his team to determine pace and specific missions. The quest for life—past or present—was still the ultimate goal of the robotic program. Getting to it, however, would be through a different strategy.
There were two Mars decisions that came up almost immediately in April for NASA which were important to recovery. One was forced on NASA by the schedule. The other was one Hubbard personally pushed to help free his team to develop a restructured program.53
Weiler took the lead on the first.54 Under the now-suspended Mars Surveyor Program, NASA was to launch an orbiter and lander every two years. The next window was coming up very quickly—2001. JPL and contractor Lockheed Martin were building the spacecraft. What was to be done?
Weiler reasoned that the orbiter had failed in 1999 owing to the bizarre mistake in communication between contractor and JPL over metric/English navigation units. The orbiter had been technically sound as far as anyone knew. On the other hand, the lander, which had crashed, required significant modification.
After getting advice from Hubbard and others, Weiler gave a go-ahead to develop the orbiter and cancelled the lander. The termination decision did not please Lockheed Martin or JPL, but served to send a message Weiler wanted to transmit—that he was taking more authority over the program.55 The days when decision making was largely delegated and headquarters stood back, downsizing as it did so, were over. Weiler was intent on building up a more robust Science Mission Directorate, and he did not intend to be a passive manager. The 2001 orbiter mission was called Odyssey, in honor of Arthur C. Clarke’s book and screenplay for the film 2001: A Space Odyssey.
The next decision was the indefinite postponement of the MSR mission. Weiler had indicated that it was coming, but Hubbard made sure it came right away. An early MSR had driven decision making on Mars since the program reorientation following the meteorite excitement. Hubbard did not want it to drive the recovery effort. When would MSR come? Hubbard believed that MSR was the right goal for the robotic program—but it had to come only when “ready,” and that would probably be beyond the 10-year program he and his associates were designing. Naderi called the proposed accelerated MSR mission “science fiction.”56 Hubbard detected at least four significant technological barriers to MSR success. He went to JPL and confronted MSR’s project manager, O’Neil. He pointed out the technical challenges. He asked, “What makes you so sure you can overcome these problems?” In addition, Hubbard challenged the MSR cost estimate. Then at $750 million, it was hopelessly low in his view.57
Hubbard subsequently went to a large workshop of Mars scientists, armed with a new sample return estimate. There may have been 65 to 80 people there, as he recalled. Most of them fervently embraced MSR as a goal as soon as possible. But Hubbard posed this question to the group: “The current estimate we have is that MSR will cost $2 billion plus. Where do I go to get a sample worth that?” No one in the audience had an answer.58
The next step for Hubbard was to go to Weiler, who agreed with his position to put MSR on indefinite hold. Finally, Hubbard and Weiler met with Goldin, who had been the champion of the accelerated MSR mission. Before we go for MSR, Hubbard told the administrator, “you’ve got to have scientific understanding.” But, he emphasized, the Mars community, including the astrobiolo – gists, did not have that understanding. Moreover, to get scientific answers would take the development of “four missing technologies.” There simply wasn’t the knowledge or time to make an early launch. MSR would have to be deferred for some years, he explained. Typically, Goldin responded to statements about difficulties with “You’re not trying hard enough,” But not this time. Goldin could not have liked what he heard, but he did not object. The message subsequently went to Stone: “You must go along!”59 The MSR project was cancelled.
It fell to Hubbard to break the news about MSR to the French. Goldin had enlisted them in planning for an MSR mission. The French were not happy,
nor were other potential international partners. Hubbard left the door open to possible later participation, but not in the near term.60