A draft space policy paper provides insight into what some space experts — and NASA employees — think NASA should be doing about the risks inherent in NASA's current human space flight systems.

The paper is part of a two-year study by George Washington University space experts to investigate the technical, policy and standards aspects of safety in human space flight and research new ways to achieve risk-minimization.

Unlike the Columbia Accident Investigation Board, which specifically analyzed the causes of last year's space shuttle accident, this study will try to identify new approaches to human space flight in order to make future missions more reliable and thus less hazardous to crew members.

As part of the project, researchers will host a workshop in Washington, D.C. in early December. In preparation for the workshop, a large document is under preparation that will apparently be released in its final form for public review and comment, according to NASA Watch.

A draft of the paper suggests that risk-related problems still exist at NASA. It states that confidential interviews with former NASA employees and astronauts, academics in the field and others knowledgeable about NASA programs indicate that "safety concerns — on the part of both NASA employees and Shuttle-related contractors — are still being glossed over and that corners are being cut because of the special circumstance of the Shuttle grounding and delays in the International Space Station program.

Safety assessments and analyses presented by competent staff within NASA are still being "overlooked or pigeonholed" for budgetary or other reasons and that the “broken safety culture” issues reported by the Columbia Accident Investigation Board (CAIB) continue to be an issue, states the draft.

"A disturbing number of qualified individuals (in and out of the government) have made statements that safety programs are not all that they should be and there remain reports in the press of ups and downs in addressing safety issues related both to the Shuttle and in general."