back to article 'They threw my laptop into the atmosphere'

Public spending watchdogs in the US have slammed NASA for having such terrible property control procedures that employees have "lost" $94m worth of kit in the last decade. It says the agency does not have "effective control" over the $35bn of property that it reports on in its financial statements. It cites one employee who …


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  1. Register Reader

    Not to mention

    Them throwing out their fridge out last week.. 1 in 5000 odds of someone being injured by a 35lb superheated glob of metal/ammonia when burns up on re-entry!!

  2. regadpellagru

    Darn impressive

    Really impressive that they've lost $94m in a decade ! That makes close to $10m per year, or 0.03% of assets each year !

    Considering most of the NASA assets are REALLY hard to loose (like a whole shuttle, borrowed for the wife, maybe ?, or a launch ramp or a whole sat station), this is mad ...

    As for the excuses, I like the one of the burnt laptop in the atmosphere, really cool. I'm unsure anyone would get off a space station, in his space suit and be able to even switch a laptop on, though.

  3. Ross Fleming Silver badge

    Not bad in perspective...

    To be fair, they've only lost less than 1% of their tangible assets in a year (0.27% - ok it's been a long afternoon). Once you've factored in depreciation it's probably even less.

    I want a report that says has an excuse "space shuttle - was in the garage last time I looked, not there now"

  4. Matt Siddall


    Sure, $94m sounds like a lot, but on the other hand, that's over 10 years...

    $94m out of $35bn is less than one tenth of one thirty-fifth - or about 0.3%. How does this compare with other big business?

  5. Peter Simpson

    It may have cost $4000 when purchased

    but I'm pretty sure that by the time they threw that laptop out the airlock, it wasn't worth the shipping to send it back to the surplus disposal office...

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If they have read BOFH, they would get better excuses...

    They have outdone the BOFH and PFY when they threw their boss' craptop from the top of the building...

    Yeah right...

    Their dog ate their notebook...

    If they have read BOFH, they would get better excuses... and perhaps permanent vacation to a few beancounters (in the sub-basement, in the elevator shaft...)

    Let me get me sacks of lime, rolls of carpet... and book the white van.


  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    13k per lost item?

    The most disconcerting of all these figures are those related to the 65 items listed in the report as "searched for but still missing. It says that the total value of these items is $850,000, that breaks down to about $13k average...WTF went missing? I can understand if it's a bunch of PC's throwing off the average but at $4k (with laser printer) that means someone "lost" a something really, really, big. Like a spacesuit or something. Damn it, my govt really blows sometimes.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    not sure what the fuss is about.

    Hmm having seen how careless most managers are with their blackberries, laptops, company BMWs etc, it strikes me that NASA are doing no worse than your average blue chip. I think people are having a go at them because they have more fun at work than the rest of us.

  9. heystoopid

    Small Potatoes

    Small Potatoes , compared to what the Banks lose annually from a combination of very poor lending , fraud and internal staff theft , and then turn around and make all paying customers cover the missing monies with interest!

    NASA is a saint in comparison!

  10. Shane McCarrick

    Whats the problem?

    If the asset losses of NASA were compared with other agencies- I think you'd find that their $94m losses over the course of a decade are actually really really impressive. The average price of an F22A is $176m- the airforce loose almost 20 every year (and god only knows what walkable assets vanish there......). Inflated travel claims are a far worse issue in NASA than the odd laptop vanishing.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not bad at all.

    UPS used to do more damage to our assets than that every time we ordered Dell machines.

    In all seriousness, $13k/item isn't a big deal in some conditions. A space-certified, mission-critical P3-class CPU can cost that much, and a crate of those dissapearing isn't a big deal at all. Lab equipment can also run up that expensive with ease, and then be forgotten about in the rush of "ZOMG WE GET NEW COMPUTERS! INSTALL THEM NOW AND GET THE OLD ONES OUT OF MY SIGHT!"

    thus resulting in PCs being disposed of with $15,000 PCI cards in them.

    Been there, done that. Learned pretty quick to pay attention to the cards and establish a "Lost and found" for unusual hardware. Every time one of our R&D labs has decommed old computers, they've forgotten about some piece of exotic hardware they installed. Every. Single. Time. Two months later, the next time they need it, they come screaming at the disposal dudes asking them us "OMFG FIND IT THAT WAS EXPENSIVE." We've had incidents like that ranging from $500 boards to upwards of $30,000.

    I've actually seen one $5000 board run through the lost and found 6 times. If NASA's disposal officers aren't as tech savvy as ours (disposal of all materials here is handled by IT), I can see this being very plausible.

    This is also notable because the computers are often owned by the IT department, and the test equipment by someone else. As such, IT may not even be aware that someone else's kit is riding inside theirs. Only the computers ever get registered as "disposed of", and everything that happened to be caught inside of it is "lost"

  12. SImon Hobson Silver badge

    Some of this may be down to 'administration'

    Someone I know used to work for a major car manufacturer - and was told that he was no longer allowed to drive company vehicles because the insurance had blacklisted him. Why ? Well the books showed that he was responsible for 400 vehicle write-offs in one year !

    Well you could understand an insurance clerk seeing that and panicking !

    However, these were development vehicles, which for various reasons usually get destroyed when they are done with - and someone has to sign the paperwork. It just so happened that my friend was the one whose name went on the paperwork and so it appeared that he had written off 400 cars in a year !

    So I wonder how much of the NASA stuff is down to misunderstandings ?

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ooops I've misplaced my shuttle...

    ..darn it, can never remember who I lent it to...

  14. silverguy


    13k worth of "mission-critical P3-class CPU can cost that much, and a crate of those disappearing isn't a big deal at all..."

    i wish i worked at NASA i would have an uber PC.


    Good to see misappropriation, come on its only 94 Million dollars...

    i was wondering where all the taxes went. And now i know.

    sH*T hot, laptops. (Literally burning up)

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  16. amlendu

    Call it shrinkage

    In UK the better term is Shrinkage

  17. Gilbert Wham

    Best. Excuse. Ever.

    "whre is it? Errrrrrrr, iiiiits, on a spaceship! Yes, that's right, left it on the spaceship. Sorry, can't get it back now."

    If only I could get away with using it...

  18. Steve

    I know what happened......

    Hugo Drax nicked a shuttle

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