Case Study 2 - In the HBS case Strike in Space the Skylab...

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In the HBS case “Strike in Space,” the Skylab space station cut off communication by turning off the radio and refusing to talk with Houston Mission Control on December 27, 1973. In the eyes of NASA’s ground control team, this was an unacceptable move that undermined the goals of the mission. There were many factors listed in the case that contributed to the conflict, some of which included the twelve-week length of stay, the isolated environment, the faulted and unwieldy design of the space shuttle, and the inevitable disorientation that comes with working in an environment that does not have gravity. However, these factors were not fully considered with respect to the flight crew when the ground team established their expectations for the mission; there had been two previous Skylab teams that had already had successful missions under the same circumstances, so the ground team assumed the third Skylab team to immediately start operating at maximum efficiency. Throughout the mission, the underlying issue that emerged centered around the expectations on both the part of the Skylab team and ground control. Ground control made decisions under the assumption that the third mission group would operate in a similar fashion to the two previous groups, and expected them to start operating at maximum efficiency immediately. On the other hand, the crew began to resent ground control because they failed to meet the crew’s expectations of treatment and performance. The difference in expectations set up both sides for disappointment and gradually fostered an environment susceptible to failure. The members of the third Skylab crew were very inexperienced in space travel; in fact, no one in the crew had ever been in space before and “they had some apprehension about their rookie status.” In comparison, the second crew had been familiar with the first team and thus, they were more prepared from the start. The captain of the second crew was close friends with the pilot and captain of the first team. Meanwhile, the pilot of the first team was also close friends with the pilot of the second crew. This network created a sense of familiarity for the second team and helped provide them with a smoother transition from life on earth to life in space. As a result of their friendship with members of the first crew, members of the second crew were able to discuss how things would go in space beforehand. Members of the second crew were given a better idea of what to expect and thus, they were able to minimize the amount of time it would take to reach optimal efficiency. Despite being given this upper hand, the second crew still took one month before they were working like a well-oiled machine. This was not taken into account when establishing expectations for the third crew, as they were expected to pick up exactly where the second group left off without any transition period.
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