Did not catch today’s shuttle lift off live but have watched the video several times and it gives me chills and I feel awe, greatness, and such a thrill. I am a big fan of the space program – maybe because I was born in 1962 and clearly remember how someone’s dad would haul a big, heavy tv into our first and second grade classrooms so we could watch Apollo missions. And, of course the memory from July 1969 of family gathered in our den watching Neil Armstrong walk on the moon is pretty cool. I know youth is coveted in the world today, but I kind of feel sorry for those so young they were not alive during the amazing and exciting early years of space travel. I daily use (and love) my microwave oven, memory foam mattress, scratch resistant eyeglass lenses and regularly use dozens of other consumer products made possible by space program research.
But, because I am an organizational psychologist, I am also tuned into some other things we’ve gotten from NASA – a lot of great knowledge about organization behavior including awesome examples of leadership, teamwork, problem solving, creativity, and expertise as well as some very tough lessons on decision making and group think. I taught a college-level course in Organization Behavior for many years and often pulled from NASA examples to explain sometimes difficult concepts.
My husband and I recently had brunch with friends at Luke (our current favorite John Besh restaurant in New Orleans) and movies came up. We all agreed that Apollo 13 is worth watching yearly. I know it’s a movie about what happened on that mission but regardless, some of the scenes stay with me. In one of those, a box of seemingly random parts is dumped on a table in a conference room full of engineers. They are told that in a limited amount of time, using only those parts, to figure out a way to connect a square piece to circular one and that “failure is not an option”. And they do. Another scene near the end, when someone says to Gene Kranz, NASA Flight Director, “This could be the worst disaster NASA’s ever faced” and he replies, “With all due respect, sir, I believe this is gonna be our finest hour” really chokes me up. Finally, at the end of the movie, when the Odyssey splashes down in the Pacific and the astronauts fall out into the rescue raft, surrounded by the greatness of the US military, I ALWAYS feel overwhelmed with pride that I am an American. It’s not terribly different from what I felt today when I watched the video of the final shuttle launch.
So, to all NASA employees, past and present, and to those in the US military that have supported NASA efforts and to the NASA contractors out there including neighbors in New Orleans who worked at the Michoud facility all those years: Thanks for a lifetime of great lessons and memories.