Brain drain: Top scientists flee NASA as agency is scaled down

Space experts say the best and brightest often head for the doors when rocket lines get marked for extinction, dampening morale and creating hidden threats. They call it the “Team B” effect.

“The good guys see the end coming and leave,” said Albert D. Wheelon, a former aerospace executive and Central Intelligence Agency official. “You’re left with the B students.”…

History has offered some bleak lessons, with tons of wreckage testifying to the danger. Experts say the Team B effect contributed to disasters in the mid-1980s and late 1990s that destroyed more than a dozen rockets, wiped out billions of dollars in satellites and threw the nation’s unpiloted space program into turmoil. The two catastrophes of the space shuttle program — in 1986 and 2003, which killed 14 astronauts — had more to do with design flaws and management failures than with depleted ranks of experts.