Thrill of the Ride

It was dark and anticipation was in the air, you could smell the salt off the sea. In the distance, lights and people moving about like little ants scurrying back to their queen. And then, the wait is over….9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, "we have go for main engine start, we have liftoff of America's first Space Shuttle and the Shuttle has cleared the tower." The g-forces hold the occupants firmly against their seats as the shuttle climbs towards the heavens with the brilliant light from the rocket boosters propelling her at 26,246 feet per second. Seconds after lift-off, the command is given from Houston, “Columbia Houston, you're go at throttle up.”

The astronauts on board, were John Young and Robert Crippen. Young was the head of the astronaut office and Crippen was a rookie who was hired in 1978, this was his first time in space. NASA was a bit gun shy to put a full crew on the shuttle considering they weren’t quite sure what was going to happen. John Young was a veteran of the space program and felt it was his duty to be on the first mission.

Young and Crippen trained longer for the first mission than any other, considering the manuals for the space shuttle weighed 67 pounds, it was a lot to digest.

Without that training, Young and Crippen would not have been prepared for the unknown. When they left the earth in the first EVER space shuttle mission many of the simulated tests didn’t pan out to be reality. When you have a spacecraft climbing at 4.8 miles per second, it’s probably good to have a bit of info and training to rely on.

I often get criticized for attention to detail and asking questions. We have a culture in the world today of just do it and clean up the mess later. Think of it this way, if Southwest Airlines, any airline really, said to a pilot, “just get the plane in the air, we will worry about what happens later,” that could be a bad thing. Not all of us have jobs or tasks in life that involve people dying if we don’t train enough or get all the information; however, is it really okay to just throw the spaghetti against the wall and see what sticks? 

We live in the right now. If I had looked up something about NASA or Space Shuttle Columbia 30 years ago it would have probably involved a ride to the library or video store, yes, I’m old. Today, I can say two magic words and the information flows freely….”okay, Google,” that’s all it takes. We often believe that it should be that easy in our professional lives, to jump the ladder, to have lots of responsibility. With responsibility also comes accountability. What’s the difference? A lot! It simply means, if I’m responsible for it, then I’m accountable for what happens. If you are responsible for correcting an issue and then something goes wrong you can’t say, “I didn’t do that” or worse, “I didn’t know that would happen.”  I think we lost the accountability part somewhere along the way.

The thrill of the ride may be exciting; however, it takes time, hard work, patience, and accountability to be able to succeed in anything. I may be old fashion, but details matter, and doing it right the first time saves everyone a lot of work and trouble in the long run.

So, where does all of this end? In a little over two days and 36 orbits around the earth the two astronauts brought Columbia back home. The orbitor landed in the California desert in front of 200,000+ people. They came to see Columbia return to earth. It was a picture-perfect landing on the dry lake bed. 

After Columbia arrived in California it needed a ride back to Florida, this is where my connection to the space shuttle comes into the story. 

On April 27, 1981 at approximately 3:50pm CDT, the Boeing 747 carrying Columbia on it’s back touched down in Oklahoma City at Tinker Air Force Base. My great uncle worked at Tinker and was there. I have the picture of the following day when the 747 was taking off for its final leg of the trip to Florida.

Why all the excitement? Who cares, right? I don’t know, maybe the world was in a place where it needed something to get excited about, it needed something to exceed it’s wildest dreams and expectations, it needed a diversion. 

Ask yourselves these questions:

1. What would a diversion that unites American’s look like today?

2. How do we create that type of excitement with the changes we have in social media?

3. Why is this important?

4. How thrilling or draining is the ride right now?

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