Assessing work performance
The May issue had an opinion piece, “The price of passion,” that concerns me, because it could give a young engineer or engineering student a wrong impression about our industry and how their job performance will be assessed. The article opens with a statement that passion is a factor and makes other similar statements and conclusions that weren’t true based upon my 34 years of working in the industry. In my experience, work performance was based upon whether assigned tasks were completed to quality and timing standards and how well we worked with others. I doubt a personnel department would allow you to be judged on anything else. Having said that, your attitude is recognized by teammates, team leaders and supervisors. If you are working for a company or on a project that is not inspiring you to do your best, then you are doing a disservice to your professional reputation and to the users of the system you are working on. The author mentions unwillingness to work overtime could be held against you. Not all engineering jobs have normal work hours. If working overtime is an issue for you, then that needs to be discussed upfront at the job interview. If the overtime requirement is project specific, then it needs to be discussed with your supervisor before accepting the assignment.
Kevin L. Smith, AIAA senior member
The time for full reusability
People often confuse full reusability with “aircraft-like” operations [“Why it’s time to reach for full reusability,” May]. Getting to space is still hard. We should not expect that launch vehicles will operate like aircraft for a long time. In my April 1997 article with Len Cormier in Aerospace America, we pointed out that partly reusable vehicles make a lot more sense, and the physics have not changed. We can reasonably easily reuse a booster stage. We can also return spacecraft from orbit, which is needed for return payloads, especially people, and reuse of these spacecraft is a reasonable consideration. It is the upper stages, especially large tanks, that make little sense to try to reuse. There is a significant payload penalty for adding reuse to these upper stages, and the value for reuse is less than for larger boost stages and spacecraft. Until we have used partly reusable vehicles for a while and increased the traffic to orbit, spending on fully reusable vehicles will not be justified.
James A. Martin, AIAA associate fellow, emeritus
Huntington Beach, California