Georgetown University Business Professor Available to Comment on U.S. Space Exploration Report

June 23, 2004

Georgetown University Business Professor Available to Comment on U.S. Space Exploration Report

The President's Commission on Implementation of U.S. Space Exploration Policy's report, released on June 16, 2004, outlines the organizational changes required by NASA in order to achieve the space exploration goals established by President Bush in January 2004. Those goals include returning humans to the moon by 2020 in preparation for eventual human expeditions to Mars.

Assistant Professor Robin L. Dillon-Merrill teaches decision and risk analysis at the Georgetown University's McDonough School of Business. She is the principal investigator of NASA-sponsored research to develop a risk-analysis framework for use in preparing for human missions to the moon and Mars. She is also a co-principal investigator on a NASA-sponsored research project to examine how near-miss events influence beliefs about the reliability of a technical system and why the risks associated with prior foam debris hits were overlooked in the space shuttle program before the Columbia accident.

Dillon-Merrill commented on the space exploration policy report:

"The new vision is a great goal to motivate NASA toward future exciting exploration that will energize the public. However, the objectives for the program are quite ambitious and long duration space missions are risky. The program is currently defined at such a high level that a great deal of work still needs to be done in order to define concrete program-level requirements that prioritize the design of safety into the systems."

Dillon-Merrill can address the shift in risks of long duration space missions, from the technical loss of vehicle to the health effects for astronauts and the importance of the unmanned portion in supporting any manned exploration.

She holds a Ph.D. in engineering risk analysis from Stanford University and M.S. and B.S. degrees in systems engineering from the University of Virginia.