Beyond Tang, it is hard to say how much manned space flight has really meant to the progress of science, technology, society and the overall human experience. However, it is tough to deny, there was something amazing about the idea of putting men on the moon. I mean really, think that through next time you are outside looking at the night sky. For many a trip to the store is a journey. Driving to Disney is a high point in family memories. Going to Europe – big stuff. NASA has been putting people in space and safely returning them to earth now for almost 50 years…staggering.
It all ends in a few days. With the landing of Atlantis later this week, the United States and NASA are officially out of the manned space flight business. Who knows what the final tally in cost really is, and there is absolutely no way to calculate a return on the investment made. Regardless, it is the end of an era. However one might feel about NASA, space flight, budgets and cost, it is the end of something that was special. It was without question a massive success, a source of pride to millions, and one hell of an example for goal setting and achievement.
Goals are a peculiar thing – some folks write them down, some post them on facebook, and now and again a President lays them out for everyone to hear. Public expressions of goals are scary – you literally put yourself on the hook – everyone will know if you succeed or fail. There is no cover and no excuses. When focus and committment are required, make the goal public.
The converse of the above also holds – not having goals leads to lack of focus, committment and vision. When a person or organization has nothing to aim for, when there is no goal, it is an absolute certainty that morale, productivity and pride will all suffer. It has to be tough for NASA, to have accomplished so much, to have achieved such goals, to have been at the forefront of innovation, and know the end is literally just a few days away. Imagine what could be if only there was a goal.