My love of all things space is known to most who know me, so I suppose it is a little surprising that I have yet to comment on such matters herein. Time to put that right.
I am hugely interested in the US Manned missons on the 60’s, Mercury through to Apollo not only as an engineering marvel but also for the human endeavour. Obviously, the moon landings themselves take most of the public interest, in my opinion, by far the most impressive of all missions was Apollo 8.
Let’s put this into a little context. There had been a fire during a test, later to be called Apollo 1 which had set the plan back (and most say to good effect) a long way. There had been a few unmanned tests and one manned orbital mission Apollo 7 which was not even the full configuration. With things running late and the end of the decade target at risk, time needed to be made up. It was time for one of the best management decisions imaginable. George Low proposed that Apollo 8 go to the moon. Only the 2nd ever flight. The lunar module was late and not going to be ready on schedule so they could make up overall time in the plan this way.
I love this because it is exactly the right kind of management decision, a perfect balance of risk and opportunity. Looked at now with the Shuttle disasters behind us, it could look a little foolhardy but the mission modification itself was still a well thought out proposal. If you are ever seeking inspiration for how to take a technology program forward, look at Apollo 8 and you will wonder what your dilemma is all about. This is real decision making. There was only one true risk, that the engine wouldn’t fire and get them out of lunar orbit. But this was a risk inherent in the Apollo design, so didn’t have be any more or less risky with Apollo 8. The simplicity of the engine (virtually no moving parts at all) had made this possibility as risk free as it possibly could.
Frank Borman commanded Apollo 8. Its not a name that many will have heard of but he stands out for me as the number 1 astronaut of that time. Not only because of his flight in Gemini or Apollo but mainly for the work he did after the fire, in the investigation and beyond.
Apollo 8 was a resounding success with some notable firsts, especially the first earthrise picture. The Christmas day broadcast from the moon is also strangely chilling, even for me who isn’t at all religious.
It wouldn’t do it justice to talk about Apollo 8 here but I would encourage you to read the superb Wikipedia page and, of course, Andrew Chaikin’s excellent book A Man On The Moon.
The story of Apollo 8 is not told enough and it is one that anyone in management should read and understand, it shows what can happen when you take your own personal fear of failure out of the equation and make choices based on good solid thinking.
Website of the Day:
Suppose it has to be this!
Track of the Day:
“Meet Za Monsta” by PJ Harvey was particularly splendid tonight.