February 23

Coffee With Mike- Learning From Astronauts

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I really found this interesting about Frank Borman, the astronauts, and test pilots, and so forth, and they got- they being NASA - hired these test pilots to be apart of their their program to understand what it takes to get a person to the moon successfully and back. Once they did that, then they decided, 'how do we build a ship a spaceship that becomes reusable? How do we do that?' They made it look like an airplane, they made it look like an airliner, and they began to go up, and I think the first flight for a space shuttle was in 1981, they kept bringing it down, and they had three of them that they alternated, and it was working out great, as far as the public knew. 

What we didn't know is that there was a lot of debate going on in the background between the engineers about how to make this thing better, and make sure that they weren't putting undue risk to the lives of the people who were helping them operate the space shuttle, and to the astronauts themselves. But being caught in a financial bind with Congress, and being caught within an ambitious schedule to show their worth, they began to say that the space shuttle was actually a jetliner. It looked like a jetliner because it was a jetliner, and that taking a trip on the shuttle was as safe as getting on a commercial jetliner going from California to New York. Yes, some mishaps may happen along the way but this thing was safe. 

So they had Jake Garn, who was a senator from Utah go up on the space shuttle, they had a guy Bill- trying to remember his last name- who was a congressman from Florida who went up on the space shuttle, and then they asked Christa McAuliffe, a teacher to become a passenger on the space shuttle. So, unknown to us as the public, what's being debated among the astronaut community was, 'should they be doing this?' Because their test pilots, they understand the risk.  The public are being told this is commercial, it's like a commercial jetliner airliner, it's nothing to be really afraid of. 

Frank Borman came out with this statement, he says: "If it's a commercial airliner, then stop putting a parachute on it." Because when it lands, it had to have a parachute to stop. He said, "A commercial airliner doesn't have any parachutes. We don't need any parachutes because we have something that is a redundancy built into it that makes it safe and secure, and we understand what's going to happen. When you get into that space shuttle, you don't have it, because what you've got is a handmade experiment that still has no complete answer." 

So, unknown, maybe not really understanding, the risks that they were taking, they decided to proceed with the challenger space shuttle launch in 1986, and of course that was disastrous. They didn't truly understand or didn't want to understand their situation- that caused a crisis. I used this as part of my example, or as an analogy, to say that I think, I don't know how many of our problems, but probably more than fewer of our problems are based on the fact that we don't take the time to really understand the situation we're in, or we don't want to face the situation we're in and have to make the adjustments that are demanded. 

We think we can just get by with it anyway. 'Should I stop for gas right now? I'm pretty low. Oh I can make it back!' "Should I change the oil right now? I haven't done it in 15,000 miles? Oh it will be OK for another 2000.'  'Do I need to change the tires right now? They look kind of bald. Oh it'll be OK.' Simple little things right, but those little things matter when you run out of gas, when your engine blows, or when your tire blows and you're going 80 miles an hour.

"They didn't truly understand or didn't want to understand their situation- that caused a crisis."

So my point I'm making here is this: let's make sure that we don't cause crises with bad judgment. As Frank Borman suggested, a superior pilot uses his superior knowledge, his superior judgment to avoid situations that demand the use of his superior skills. Let's not put ourselves to the test. We're not test pilots. Let's just make sure that we're creating plans of smooth transitions that allow us to make the most of our time, our energy, and our money in a way that doesn't put people, or ourselves, or jobs, or anything else, relationships at risk. Let's not do that.  

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