The Crisis Cycle


“When written in Chinese, the word ‘crisis’ is composed of two characters.  One represents danger and the other represents opportunity.”
–John F. Kennedy.

Last week I read a guest blog on spacenews.com written by former NASA chief historian Roger Launius with a rather provocative lead-in: “Human Spaceflight on the Brink of Extinction?” The piece goes on to draw some parallels to today’s situation in human spaceflight with that faced in 1967 by another key part of NASA – the space science community – in putting together a controversial new major planetary exploration program. “The crisis in X” is the theme of the piece, and how lessons learned from the 1967 space science crisis might be important indicators on how to move forward today in human spaceflight.  Rather than debate the merits of applicability of the 1967 experience (because personally, I believe the experience in 1993 of the morphing of the Space Station Freedom program into today’s International Space Station program is a closer analogue to today’s situation), I’d like to focus on that key word – crisis.  I wondered: are we really facing a crisis today in human spaceflight?  What exactly is a crisis, and what actions should we take if we are in a crisis?

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The Crisis Cycle