A Pet Peeve

“The sun has already set on the days we made those choices. We must
concentrate on what we can do tomorrow; we can’t relive yesterday.”

–Zeddicus Zu’l Zorander in “Blood of the Fold” by Terry Goodkind 

As part of my commute to and from the office each day, I listen to audiobooks.  This morning, I wasn’t paying too close attention to the story, instead focusing on traffic.  (You’re glad to hear that, I’m sure.)  All of a sudden, I heard the above phrase, cutting through my focus on traffic and ringing as pure as a crystal bell.

In that moment of crystal clarity, a question I’ve heard repeatedly over the last 18 months came to mind: “Who’s fault is it that we have a gap in US domestic access to low Earth orbit?”

I don’t need to sketch the story here: you know it.  But I will anyway to make a point. Some point to the current Administration as the source of blame.  Others point to the previous Administration.  Of course, which way one argues this point is dependent upon a variety of political agendas, creative selection of facts, or whatever.
My pet peeve concerns the back and forth that continues to this day on the blame game.

My position: Who cares?  The decision was made for a number of reasons; more importantly, the decision was made a long time ago and is behind us.  Reality is here, now.  The gap is upon us.  If we intend on continuing to be a leader in space exploration, it’s time to tackle some hard questions such as these:

  • Why do we choose to explore space?
  • How can we best marshall the resources in a fiscally-responsible manner to develop and operate the infrastructure and systems needed?

Until we are of a common mind on the answers to these questions and others, we will continue to be at odds, and the bickering will continue.  As will the gap.

Clearly, NASA needs to work hard(er) with the Hill and White House on the best way forward for the Agency, even if that means tackling the sticking points between Executive policy and Congressional authorization.  The emerging space sector has the daunting task of delivering on some very high expectations while navigating the shifting maze of Government regulations, intellectual property rights, indemnification, contractual mechanisms, and so on.  Together, the public and private sectors need to explore and establish the kinds of partnerships that will bring greater value than if each were to go it alone.

We can’t move on if too many of us insist in living in the past and continuing to play the blame game.  The sun has already set on the day we made the choice to retire the shuttle. We must concentrate on what we can do for tomorrow.

Join me in the coming weeks as I share some insights into what I’m doing for tomorrow in my small corner.  I’ll be learning as I go along, and I hope you do too.
Text © 2011 Joe Williams
Photo courtesy of iStockphoto/konradlew
A Pet Peeve

The End is Where We Start From

“What we call the beginning is often the end.

And to make an end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from.”
–T. S. Eliot


“Houston, Mission Accomplished.”

Those were the words from the crew of Atlantis after completing its final mission, marking the end of the 30-year Space Shuttle Program.  Greeting those words were a mixture of cheers, tears, and questions about the next step in human spaceflight.  All of these are natural, when one considers the lifecycle.

Everything has a lifecycle, whether it is teams, projects, organizations, companies, even ourselves.  The natural flow of a lifecycle is in one direction, from birth, to rapid growth, maturity, dénouement, and ending.  Because it is a cycle, it repeats itself – each ending leads to a rebirth, to new growth, and so on.  “Wheels stop” ofAtlantis symbolically marks the fifth stage of the lifecycle of the Space Shuttle Program itself, that of ending. The ending stage captures communication of accomplishments and learning from the experience. Celebration, cleansing, and preparing for the renewal and rebirth to come occurs here in the fifth stage.

Each of us experiences the fifth stage differently.  For some, it is a time of somber reflection.  For others, its an eagerness to get on with the next grand challenge.  I won’t be so trite as to say (unlike others) that there is only one way and one timetable to experience the ending stage.  My own with the shuttle occurred in 1998, yet I certainly won’t begrudge those who are experiencing it now, or criticize you for “looking back” when we supposedly need to be “looking ahead” right this very minute.  There is a time and place for everyone to experience the ending stage.  For my colleagues who supported the Space Shuttle Program through the end, please take your time, savor the accomplishments you helped bring to reality, discover those nuggets of meaning from your experiences and contributions, and prepare yourself for the new challenges to come.

You’ve earned it.


Text © 2011 Joe Williams

Photo credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

The End is Where We Start From