Leadership and large-scale technology: The case of the International Space Station

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6 Scopus citations


Large-scale, long-term technological programs funded by government are extraordinarily difficult to begin, maintain, and complete. They must negotiate not only technical, but also political hurdles. International connections add to the complexity. This paper analyzes the course of the International Space Station (ISS) from the perspective of the NASA administrator. The roles of James Beggs, Dan Goldin and Sean O'Keefe are discussed as illustrative of how top federal executives can influence such programs. Much depends on when in the program's life cycle an administrator happens to serve and how long he or she serves. There are times when major decisions are possible, and the course of a program set for years. However, these strategic decisions also require tactical choices along the way. The function of the NASA administrator is to successfully harmonize the political environment and technical realities of a huge program like ISS. Administrators influence the birth and execution of a program through choices they make, resources they acquire, and coalitions of support they build for the program. As a program like ISS extends over many years, program success requires NASA administrators to move a technological enterprise forward, rather than to let it drift or be terminated.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)195-203
Number of pages9
JournalSpace Policy
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Law
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Space and Planetary Science


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