November 25, 2013 Leave a comment
Yesterday, Moe Lane had post that talked about “Failure not being an option”. It’s a fantasy, as anybody who does real stuff can tell you. We all like to talk about the space program in the 60s, me included. In fact, when I was in college, a group of us went together, rented an airplane and flew down to the Kennedy Space Center to see an Apollo launch. This one
If I’m honest, that video is a very poor impression. It was quite simply the most awesome (in the real sense) thing that I have ever seen. It was rather like watching the sun come up 5 miles away, in a god like roar that shook the ground. If you can imagine four college guys, who had stood directly under the Blue Angel soloists (in F-4 Phantom jets) a few weeks before, just staring with tears running down their faces, you’ll know how we felt. Never before or since have I been so proud to be an American.
But failure was always an option, it was only a few years before that “Houston, we have a problem” had entered the lexicon (Apollo 13) and only five years since another Indiana boy (and Boilermaker) had burned to death in Apollo 1. All of that engineering done on drawing boards and with slide rules. I’m not sure we could do it today with all our advantages. That was Kennedy’s legacy to us all: Americans can do anything, with nearly nothing, at any time. But to get to that point we saw a lot of this
And that’s the lesson for us all from the space program. You’re going to make mistakes, errors, and even blunders. If you learn from them, you will eventually get it right. If you’re smart, you do your testing in such a way that you don’t kill too many people testing. And that’s especially true, if like the American space program, you’re doing it right out front in the store window, where the whole world can watch.
It was great TV though.
Here’s part of Moe’s:
“A free hint to my fellow liberal arts majors: outside of our own, rather narrow, academic disciplines, it really doesn’t matter how hard you wish for something. You’re not gonna get it that way:”
The idea that “failure is not an option” is a fantasy version of how non-engineers should motivate engineers. That sentiment was invented by a screenwriter, riffing on an after-the-fact observation about Apollo 13; no one said it at the time. (If you ever say it, wash your mouth out with soap. If anyone ever says it to you, run.) Even NASA’s vaunted moonshot, so often referred to as the best of government innovation, tested with dozens of unmanned missions first, several of which failed outright. Failure is always an option. Engineers work as hard as they do because they understand the risk of failure. And for anything it might have meant in its screenplay version, here that sentiment means the opposite; the unnamed executives were saying “Addressing the possibility of failure is not an option.”
Continue reading Moe Lane » “Failure is ALWAYS an option*.” #obamacare