Fifty years ago this week is the anniversary of the flight of Apollo 13. Made famous by the movie of the same name starring Tom Hanks, the movie contained the legendary line: “Houston, we’ve had a problem.” What a relevant reminder about problems bigger than we can imagine…and how sometimes when things go wrong, they can still turn out right.
Astronaut and Mission Commander Jim Lovell thought he would be the fifth man to walk on the moon. However, during the flight they were given a routine instruction from Mission Control to turn up the cryo tanks. They heard a loud bang…and had no idea what was wrong. “Houston, we’ve had a problem.” An oxygen tank had exploded which had served as part of the craft that was supposed to power them to the moon and back.
Now, the only “mission” was to get back home alive. The crew needed to move into the lunar module and had to calculate their direction manually. Three men spent four days in a module which was built for two people to live in for a maximum of two days.
When their ventilation system overloaded, the Mission Control engineers were able to direct the astronauts on how to remedy the situation with items they had on board including an old sock and a lot of duct tape.
America held its breath as they re-entered the atmosphere and splashed down into the Pacific Ocean. Successfully.
Things don’t always turn out the way we plan. Sometimes we have to jerry-rig a situation. Unforeseen situations, mishaps, disappointment, and bad fortune can be dealt with in a proactive way and lead to learning and new advances in science.
As we all navigate this enormous learning curve in the way we live and do business during COVID-19, it is our hope that together, we will move forward with new innovations, problem-solving ideas, and methods and strategies to be prepared for future issues. Remember Apollo 13!