Examination of Witness (Questions 100-119)|
5 JULY 2004
Q100 Chairman: You could have fooled
me. You have criticised on a broad front. We are trying to nail
Professor Southwood: I think,
if you want me to say, and I think this will happen in the future,
and it has been put together by BNSC, they will never start anything
and they will not put anything to ESA without having a clearly
defined agreement at the starting point as to where the money
is coming from, who is responsible and a managerial structure
in place. That is what we are doing already with new programmes;
for instance, the mid-infrared instrument for the James Webb telescope.
Q101 Mr McWalter: Nothing risky would
Professor Southwood: Come on,
everything is risky in space. It is a highly risky business. That
is why you do everything you can to mitigate risk. One clear way
to mitigate risk that we all are in charge of is to get the money
in place and get the management in place. The risks come because
you cannot go up there and fix it because you are doing things
100 million kilometres from home. That is where the risks lie.
Q102 Bob Spink: Could I just re-direct
very briefly? You said that you took a view early on that the
project would fail. Did that view influence you in not allowing
Professor Southwood: Not at all.
It seemed to me on the mass that we went from 60 kilograms at
the beginning to I think finally 72 kilograms, so we went up by
20% anyhow. How is that done? If you had declared that 12 kilograms
that eventually were going to appear at the beginning, they would
have gone immediately. I am afraid you manage things by keeping
margin and you give out the margin as you see that the pressure
you are exerting is failing to deliver. Management is done by
Q103 Bob Spink: Professor, you have heard
the previous witnesses say that they asked if they could increase
mass from 60 to 68 kilograms and they did not get a response from
you, from the ESA. Can you explain why that was the case, if it
was indeed the case?
Professor Southwood: I do not
know what the date was. Do you have the date? Early on you fix
the boundary. They know you have got margin, but equally well
we did not know the margin we had until we were sure of the performance
of the launcher and we were sure of the delivery mass on all the
other instruments. Remember, we were launching much more than
60 kilograms. This was a small element. Our ability to be generous
also is a function of time.
Q104 Bob Spink: Do you accept that this
lack of mass increased the risk?
Professor Southwood: Of course.
Q105 Bob Spink: Were there any instruments
at all in Mars Express that could have been left out to create
more mass for the lander that could have been a trade-off, looking
back and in fairness?
Professor Southwood: Look at the
results we have got already. Would you not have wanted to see
those three-dimensional pictures which are high resolution and
utterly unique; the discovery of methaneunique; the discovery
of the ice and separation of the water ice from dry iceunique?
Come on, I think we have done pretty well.
Q106 Bob Spink: I am just asking the
Professor Southwood: The short
answer is "no".
Q107 Bob Spink: I think you have already
answered this. Do you think that we should go ahead and follow
through with more projects?
Professor Southwood: I would love
you to do that. I would simply say: take the advice of the inquiry
board and look at those recommendations before you let the money
go. Make sure that those are obeyed.
Q108 Dr Turner: Professor Southwood,
you keep telling us that at quite an early stage you got a very
strong view that Beagle was likely to fail. Could you tell us
why you thought it had a very high risk of failing and, secondly,
did you have a strategy in your mind that could have been applied
to reduce its risk?
Yes to both. The short answer is certainly that I had a strategy,
which was to sharpen up the management. I came in and found it,
frankly, a mess. There was no structure of sub-contracts; there
was no clear hierarchy. I like the management hierarchy to match
the way the money flows. I could not find it. I am afraid, although
I am an academic, I am a manager also, and I have always enjoyed
managing, and it was not sound.
Q109 Dr Turner: The failure was obviously
a technical one. Could you relate the perceived flaws in cash
flows and the structure that you detected to actual technical
difficulties which would have led to its failure?
Professor Southwood: Yes. This
becomes a little bit of a personal perspective, but clearly if
we had had in place a clear managerial arrangement for the procurement
of the entry to the descent landing system, I think we could have
shortened the schedule of delivery on that substantially; we could
have done far more testing; and we would have found some of the
shortcomings that emerged much earlier in the game. Equally well,
we could even have modified the Mars Express programme to meet
Beagle's requirements much more easily. One of our problems was
that Beagle was so behind. We had frozen Mars Express because
you have to bolt it together; you have to close things down; you
have to take decisions. Some of the lack of flexibility we had
was simply that Beagle was so late. If we had had a clearer situation
in 2000, and certainly in 2001and I came in in Septemberwhen
we finally put together the agreement that I think worked remarkably
well, all things considered, I was told there were six days margin
in the schedule. The agreement was not signed for another month
or so, at which time I said, "Do we cancel it?" Of course
the answer was "no".
Q110 Paul Farrelly: That was September
Professor Southwood: Yes.
Q111 Paul Farrelly: I was just looking
at the time lag for government contributions to Beagle 2 going
from your May date when you said you came in very quickly. You
said this was likely to fail in your own mind. In July 2001, the
British Government provided £8.3 million, which was the biggest
single chunk of funding.
Professor Southwood: But then
we had to tie that to the management structure, which was the
heads of agreement. We did not want that money given away without
getting a price of it, which was management structure.
Q112 Paul Farrelly: I wanted to ask you
a question. On that time lag, after you came in and made your
assessment, the Government provided £12 million, half the
amount of funding. Do you think to have done that, the Government
was actually appraised properly of the risks of failure, and do
you think that that money, in your view and given your assessment
at the time, could possibly have been used better within the European
Space Agency for other space projects?
Professor Southwood: It was such
a golden opportunity. It is very easy to be wise after the event.
I do not think I ever hid from anyone that this was a high-risk
strategy but, on the other hand, once in a while you have to take
a high risk. I firmly was going to get a price for that money,
which was much clearer management. I think Astrium stepped in
and started sorting the problems out, but they had their own problems.
The company was in trouble.
Q113 Paul Farrelly: Do you think the
Beagle team was giving an accurate assessment to the British Government
funders of the risks involved and the problems it was facing,
particularly with the landing difficulties?
Professor Southwood: It depends
who you mean by the British Government. I think that there was
an enormous pressure not to let the British people know how high
risk it was and that was for a very simple reason and it was very
straightforward. They were still looking for commercial sponsorship.
There still was the hope of getting sponsorship and getting money
back. I know I was put under pressure, and I find it quite reasonable
in the circumstances, not to say publicly, not to broadcast the
fact, that I thought it was very high risk. I will tell you that
privately I do not think anyone could have doubted my position.
On the other hand, do not get me wrong. Once I had made the commitment
in the autumn of 2001 that we were going to launch, the instructions
I gave to my project manager who is sitting right behind me were:
we do everything we can to deliver. But probably he did not tell
the Beagle 2 team everything because project managers need to
have margin to negotiate. That is just good management.
Q114 Dr Iddon: Could I ask a final question
on that? I am an observer on this scene. What I am listening to
is a representative of the European Space Agency, critical of
a part of a mission which obviously you are responsible for, the
Orbiter, and yet I am hearing a gap in management style here.
Is there not something wrong with the European Space Agency if
it cannot be completely open and critical of a mission which is
being attached from another European country, if you follow the
drift of what I am trying to say?
Professor Southwood: I know what
you mean. It depends and in a way, I think Europe is at that particular
stage where there is a gradual ceding of power from national capabilities
to European capabilities. Personally, I am very happy to keep
the strengths in the national side as best I can.
Q115 Mr McWalter: So ESA has major managerial
Professor Southwood: No, that
is not what I am saying.
Q116 Dr Iddon: What are you saying? We
need to get to the bottom of this.
Professor Southwood: What I am
saying is that there are perfectly good reasons for doing things
the way we do; that is, leaving certain capabilities if they exist
best on the national level with national entities.
Dr Iddon: Even though they may fail?
Q117 Paul Farrelly: As long as it does
not blow up your craft?
Professor Southwood: You are British.
If you want me to take responsibility, by all means I will. Equally
well, we were working in a system where the British had taken
responsibility. Good for them. I was happy to call Beagle 2 British.
You would have to call Beagle 2 European if it were done by me.
You cannot have both.
Q118 Bob Spink: Do you think that ESA
could have given more managerial and technical support to the
Beagle 2 project?
Professor Southwood: That is a
question I ask myself. I cannot see what it could have been. I
put somebody permanently in Astrium, and he worked up a very good
relationship with the team. I have given clear instructions to
my project manager, sitting behind me here. On the other hand,
you have to give people responsibility, and there was a responsibility
vested in Astrium UK.
Q119 Bob Spink: Are you pleased in a
way, since it failed, that Astrium is a British failure and not
a European Space Agency failure?
Professor Southwood: Come on,
I am British. I was very, very upset. I really wanted it to work.
I can tell that you my life would have been more difficult had