NASA Names Georgia Tech Professor to New Shuttle Safety Advisory Panel

Augustine Esogbue, a professor in Georgia Tech's School of Industrial and Systems Engineering, is among nine safety, management and engineering experts tapped by NASA to lead its Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel (ASAP). All former members of the panel resigned in September after being criticized by Columbia Shuttle investigators and members of Congress for being ineffective.

The new panel - announced Tuesday in an effort to provide stronger, more focused oversight on safety assessment - is expected to play an important role in the ongoing safety assessment and review of the Space Shuttle program as it prepares to return to flight.

Esogbue, who also serves at the director of the Intelligent Systems & Controls Laboratory at Georgia Tech, is one of only two members selected to the panel who hold academic appointments. The rest were selected from the military and private industry. The panel was chartered by Congress in 1967, after the tragic fire aboard Apollo 1, to act as an independent body advising NASA on the safety of operations, facilities, and personnel.

"The Columbia Accident Investigation Board report clearly indicated we need to get back to basics with our safety assessment," NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe said in a written statement. "By recommitting ourselves to the original concept for the ASAP, we believe a stronger, more focused advisory panel will benefit the entire agency well beyond our Return to Flight efforts."

In naming the members, NASA also announced the new panel will begin with a new charter - the original charter from 1967, signed by then-NASA Administrator James E. Webb. According to NASA, the new provisions help assure an independent, long-term oversight of the agency's safety policies and programs. Some of the revisions include:

--The new ASAP will report quarterly instead of annually;
--The term for new members is two years, extendable to a maximum of six years in order to stagger terms of service and ensure a fresh perspective at regular intervals;
--The new ASAP focuses on NASA's safety and quality systems. ASAP will focus on industrial and systems safety, risk management, trend analysis and the management of these activities.

The new panel will have the opportunity to develop its agenda in concert with the oversight findings of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board, according to NASA.

"By drawing on and tasking the technical support of the NASA Engineering and Safety Center, the panel will have a deep capacity to conduct comprehensive, independent, external oversight of our safety systems, operations and culture," O'Keefe said. "We welcome the members' active participation in our efforts to emerge from the Columbia tragedy a smarter, stronger and safer agency dedicated to exploration."

Esogbue has been a professor at Georgia Tech since 1972. In 1976, he founded Georgia Tech's chapter of NSBE - the National Society of Black Engineers and currently serves as the chapter's faculty advisor. His research interests include dynamic programming, fuzzy sets, decision making and control in a fuzzy environment, and operations research with applications to socio-technical systems such as health care, water resource management and disaster control planning.

As director of the Intelligent Systems and Controls Laboratory, he is currently investigating a hybrid approach to intelligent control via fuzzy sets, neural networks, and reinforcement learning theories, as well as its application to various large-scale, nonlinear and uncertain dynamical systems.

Here is a list of the new panel members:

Rear Admiral Walt Cantrell, USN (Ret)
Former Commander, Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command
Member, NASA Stafford-Covey Return to Flight Task Group
Former NASA Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel member

Vice Admiral Joe Dyer, USN (Ret)
Former Commander, Naval Air Systems Command
General Manager, Military Systems Division, iRobot Corporation

Augustine Esogbue, Ph.D.
Professor and Director, Intelligent Systems & Controls Laboratory,
School of Industrial and Systems Engineering, Georgia Tech
Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science

Major General Rusty Gideon, USAF (Ret)
Former Commander, U.S. Air Force Safety Center, and USAF Chief of
Safety
Former Director of Operations, Headquarters Air Force Materiel Command
Former Commander, Foreign Aerospace Science and Technology Center

Deborah Grubbe
DuPont Corporate Director -- Safety and Health
Member, National Academy of Sciences
Former consultant, Columbia Accident Investigation Board

Rosemary O'Leary, J.D., Ph.D.
Professor of Public Administration and Political Science, Maxwell School
of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University, New York
Member, NASA Stafford-Covey Return to Flight Task Group

John Marshall
Delta Airlines, Vice President Corporate Safety and Compliance, Atlanta
Co-chair, Commercial Aviation Safety Team
Board member, National Defense Transportation Association

Steve Wallace
Director, Office of Accident Investigation, Federal Aviation Administration
FAA representative to National Transportation Safety Board
Former Columbia Accident Investigation Board member

Rick Williams
Corporate Safety Director, Alcoa, New York
Former Director, Human Resources, Alcoa Primary Metals, Knoxville,
Tenn.

Brigadier General Joseph Smith, USA -- Ex-Officio Member
Director, U.S. Army Safety Center, Fort Rucker, Ala.