One of my favorite stories
June 1, 2014 Leave a comment
I’ve probably posted this before, and I can’t remember when/where I first heard it. But its simple message, and the fact that it involves NASA at the height of the space race, makes it one of my favorites.
A few weeks before his Apollo 17 launch Ken Mattingly went to the launch pad and gazed up at the towering Saturn V rocket that would take him and two other astronauts to the moon. He realized at that moment that he barely knew what he was looking at. Sure, he understood the basic design, and he knew the parts and pieces he had to know. But their were several million parts in the whole thing and each one had been designed, fabricated, tested and installed bysomeone. Standing there, he knew the scope of Apollo was beyond the grasp of any one mind. He then rode the elevator up to the place where the third stage met the spacecraft adapter section, and there, at the juncture, was an open hatchway. He climbed through until he was standing inside a great metallic ring lined with pipes and electrical lines and all kinds of components. The lone technician who was working in there was startled- “Who are you? Get out of here.” – but once he understood that he was talking to one of the men who would ride this rocket, he was just as gracious as could be. He said to Mattingly, “You know, I can’t imagine what it’s going to be like for you. But I can tell you this: It won’t fail because of what I do.” Mattingly realized that the reason Apollo worked at all was because thousands of people had said to themselves, “It won’t fail because of me.”