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"Tough and Competent"

Date: 2013-01-25
Tags: motivation nasa

The Monday after the 27 Jan 2967 Apollo 1 fire that killed astronauts Grissom, White, and Chaffee, Gene Kranz gave what will become known as “The Kranz Dictum.” The following is an exert from it:

Eugene F. Kranz, flight director, is shown at his console in the Houston Mission Operations Control Room. (NASA Photo S-65-22203) (May 30, 1965)

From this day forward, Flight Control will be known by two words: ‘Tough and Competent.’
Tough means we are forever accountable for what we do and what we fail to do. We will never again compromise our responsibilities. Every time we walk into Mission Control we will know what we stand for.
Competent means we will never take anything for granted. We will never be found short in our knowledge and in our skills. Mission Control will be perfect.

The resiliency shown by Kranz, and the rest of NASA, after the Apollo 1 tragedy is something I need to keep in mind more often. These men were playing a game with much higher stakes than I ever have and were able to continue forward and become better as people and as an agency without forgetting the loss of those three brave explorers. If they can do that then I can overcome any problem I face.

Aside: Failure Is Not an Option: Mission Control From Mercury to Apollo 13 and Beyond is an excellent book that I would recommend to anyone who is interested in the history of the space program. Kranz covers from before Mercury 1 to beyond Apollo. It is compelling and the reader can feel the tension and relief in Mission Control as missions, test, and preparations happen continuously.