Saturday, January 30, 2010

Boldly Go

I just completed reading Failure is Not an Option by Gene Kranz, flight director for many of the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo space missions. A friend had also read it recently. He commented, “If current workplace regulations had been in effect in the 60s, we would never have made it to the moon!” Whether he was serious or kidding, his comment reminds me how dangerous space flight has been and still is. Kranz points out that many of the missions succeeded only due to hard work, perseverance, God’s grace, and pure luck.

The early members of the NASA team were brought up short by the death of three astronauts-–Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee—during a static test on a launch pad on January 27, 1967. It was a tragic event but not the last one that would take the lives of American (and Russian) astronauts. In his book, Kranz notes that Grissom recognized the danger in his work. One of the original Mercury astronauts, he almost drowned when his capsule took on water before he could be picked up by the recovery crew. Kranz quotes Grissom as saying, “The conquest of space is worth the risk of life.”

I am not sure what holds us back today in moving forward with space exploration—fear of loss of life, economic tightness, vacillating leadership, or lack of vision. When he wrote the book ten years ago, Gene Kranz stated, “We stand with our feet firmly planted on the ground when we could be exploring the universe.” The book ends with a challenge to move forward, a challenge that has been largely ignored.

If a cause is worthy, men and women will give their lives to it. They just need to have the chance.

1 comment:

Anne Cabrera said...

Mr. Harrison, thank you for writing such thoughtful words regarding Gene Kranz and our nation's space program. Mr. Kranz has been a HUGE inspiration to literally millions--through his fine book and writings, his service to NASA and our country, through tireless commitment to space outreach, and through his daily inspiring example of high standards and discipline. We definitely need more Gene Kranzes in the world, that is for sure! And I am glad that you took the time to bring his name and words to everyone's attention.

I would also like to echo your sentiments and highly recommend Mr. Kranz's book "Failure is Not an Option" to anyone who has not read it. For me personally, it was the medicine I needed most following both my father's and my mother's deaths. His words and vision helped me to carry on at the darkest time of my life; even now, his code of conduct used in NASA's mission control is a guiding light in my daily life. I think many people would benefit greatly from reading Gene Kranz's book--it is a GREAT story, a TRUE story that applies to EVERYONE... because it is inspiring and true and, most of all, human. It makes you just want to stand up and cheer.

As far as space exploration and the necessity of space exploration, not many can put it quite so well as Gene Kranz. In my opinion, he always nails it: he nails just how critical it is that we continue space exploration with big goals and a timeline--how it's critical to us individually and to our survival as a human race! I think everyone should check out the various YouTube videos of him giving some of his talks, and then see if you can actually NOT boldly go!

Mr. Kranz makes it impossible not to want to strive for space. His insight and inspiration remind us of what is truly noble and worthwhile to do--and space exploration holds the benefits to our lives that we cannot reach just by placidly sitting on the ground. For if people knew all the ways that space exploration has affected their everyday lives, there would be no hesitation now with our space program at all.

So Mr. Harrison, I thank you for your blog entries about "Failure is Not an Option," Gene Kranz, and space exploration. All people seem to be searching for that which is true and good and noble in life--and you have pointed everyone in the right direction. Thank you for this. And as Gene Kranz would say, "Aim high!"