Monday, June 05, 2006

Issue 369 - Mon 5th Jun 2006

I hope Monday finds you well.

My subjects today are going for your dreams, and making sure that ambition doesn't blind you to the facts.

In 1984, Christa McAuliffe was sitting in her car with her husband, when she heard President Reagan on the radio, saying that NASA was starting a search to find a teacher to send into space.
She had always been fascinated by the space program, and her husband said she should try for it.

Sounds pretty silly eh?
1 place, out of all the teachers in the US?
Hardly worth the effort of applying.
Of course that attitude will see you never realising any of your dreams.

Being a teacher, of course Christa knew this, so she applied, and gradually progressed through the selection process, standing in amazement when she was finally chosen as the teacher in space.
She'd beaten a lot of candidates who were into mountaineering and extreme sports, because NASA wanted someone as 'normal' as possible, that more people could relate to.

That's another goal achievement principle - never assume that you don't fit the bill, because you don't always know what others are thinking!

All good stuff eh?

Well yes, but in 1984 when she first heard that broadcast on the radio, engineers had already noticed a problem about the rocket boosters on the shuttles.
When they examined the reusable boosters after a flight of the shuttle Discovery, they noticed a failure of a rubber seal, and it was only the back up seal that had prevented a disaster.
The engineer in charge of these selas made numerous attempts to get the problem looked at, but was ignored by his bosses.
The company had a huge contract with NASA, and from NASA's point of view, the seal was only 1 out of *700* shuttle components on the category 1 list, meaning a failure could be catastrophic.

Christa was due to launch in Janary 1986 on the Challenger shuttle.
As the launch neared, it was clear that the launch would be at the lowest temperature ever, and the seal engineer became ever more concerned.
The teacher in space idea had captured the media's attention, with Christa due to give a lesson from space, and children all over the country watching.
With 2 postponed launches already, NASA was feeling a lot of negative press and was desperate to get the launch off.

The managers of the rocket booster company were finally convinced of the dangers on the eve of the launch, and held a conference telemeeting with NASA.
The managers explained the situation, that they could not safely recommend a launch.
One of NASA's team said that although he found it an 'appalling situation', he couldn't go against the contractors.

Those words were critical.
The booster company's managers asked for a 5 minute break.
They realised that their multi-billion dollar contract was on the line, and told their head engineer to take off his enginer hat and put on his manager hat.
Despite the protestations of the specific seal expert present, the head engineer changed his view, and said a launch was ok.
When NASA heard this about turn, they didn't ask why the company had completely changed their view, but they did ask if anyone disagreed.
The seal engineer kept silent, and NASA took this as good enough to launch.

On January 28 1986, Challenger launched.
On take off, the seals failed to operate in the cold, and a minute after take-off, the main fuel load exploded, destroying the shuttle.
All 7 astronauts died.

The investigation concluded that NASA's communication network was flawed, and people weren't being listened to properly.
To be perfectly honest, the loss of the Columbia shuttle 17 years later suggests that the lessons hadn't been taken on.

The crux of it was that the desire to get the shuttle up had caused a blindness to basic scientific fact.

It's all too easy to get carried away by getting close to your goal, but it's an important point to stick to the known facts.
Once you move away from them, you are on unproven ground, with unpredictable results.

Had Christa McAuliffe not applied to be on that shuttle, she would have been safely on the ground, but she would have always known that the chance to fulfill an ambition had come her way and she had ignored it.

Ok, that's it for today.
If you want to go for something, then go for it, but in business and life, remember not ignore cold hard facts.

Have a good week.

'Til Next Time,
Health and Happiness,

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