NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab Fixed Staffing Failures Delaying Asteroid Mission

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab Fixed Staffing Failures Delaying Asteroid Mission
By Management
Jun 07

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab Fixed Staffing Failures Delaying Asteroid Mission

Since NASA’s inception in 1958, the organization has always been at the forefront of space exploration. With the mission to pioneer new discoveries, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) is tasked with managing the agency’s robotic space missions and developing innovative technology. However, JPL has recently faced staffing failures that have caused delays in asteroid missions.


In August 2020, NASA announced its intention to send a spacecraft named Lucy to explore Jupiter’s Trojan asteroids. The Trojan asteroids are unique because they orbit the sun at roughly the same distance as Jupiter, but in two distinct swarms that are 60 degrees apart. The Lucy mission is set to launch in October 2021 and will take twelve years to complete.

Since the announcement, JPL has faced staffing issues that have delayed progress on the spacecraft’s development and production. NASA’s Inspector General found in a report that JPL was having a difficult time keeping experienced engineers due to low pay and a lack of opportunities for career advancement. As a result, the center struggled to meet its hiring goals and ultimately fell short of the necessary staff to keep up with the project’s demands.

Staffing Issues

JPL’s staffing failure is not just limited to the Lucy mission. The center has also reported difficulty retaining experienced engineers for other programs, including the Mars rover. JPL’s director, Michael Watkins, admitted that employee turnover was negatively impacting their ability to complete their missions successfully.

Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic further complicated hiring procedures, which has made it extremely difficult for JPL to replenish staffing quickly. The center has had to bring on temporary contract workers to fill gaps, but this solution has proven to be unsustainable and costly.

Impact on Lucy Mission

The staffing failures have caused delays in Lucy’s development and production schedule. Because of the shortage of experienced engineers, JPL has had to rely heavily on temporary workers, which has resulted in decreased efficiency and productivity. The center has also experienced difficulties in maintaining a consistent level of quality in their work due to the constant turnover of staff.

The COVID-19 pandemic has only compounded these issues, as the center has had to adjust to remote work, which has caused further disruptions in their workflow. As a result, JPL has had to push back the launch date for Lucy from October 2021 to March 2022.

Steps to Address Staffing Issues

JPL is aware of their staffing issues and is taking steps to address them. The center has implemented new recruitment strategies, including reaching out to universities, conducting virtual job fairs, and offering internships. They have also provided incentives to encourage experienced engineers to stay, such as flexible work schedules and opportunities for professional growth.

Additionally, JPL has increased their reliance on artificial intelligence (AI) to help with mission planning and analysis. This allows the center to be more efficient with their resources and reduce the workload on their engineering staff.

JPL’s staffing failures have caused significant delays in NASA’s asteroid mission, highlighting the importance of skilled workers in space exploration. However, JPL recognizes the issue and is taking active steps to address it. By implementing new recruitment strategies and increasing their reliance on AI, they hope to attract and retain top talent so that they can continue to make groundbreaking discoveries in space.

In the end, these measures will not only benefit the Lucy mission but will also serve as a positive example for other organizations looking to address staffing issues. The future of space exploration may depend on having a stable, talented workforce that can handle the demands of NASA’s ambitious missions.

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