“Focus on the problem, people”

After watching our elected officials, yet again, wait to the last minute to do something, I was not surprised things fell apart. That is one of the easiest predictions that could be made. I am certain they will regather and do something, but it will be a lesser result. I also learned the Biden transition team and Department of Defense are having a spitting contest over who said what about getting together on transition issues. Really, folks?

Quoting a classic line from Gene Kranz, the mission control director for NASA, who was played by Ed Harris in the movie “Apollo 13,” “focus on the problem, people.” Apollo 13 was a successful failure. The NASA team had to pull out all the stops to get their three astronauts home from an aborted mission due to an explosion when the reserve oxygen tanks were started.

Witnessing a state of mayhem when the news came down, Kranz quieted every one with these words. Focus on the problem, people. He added he wanted answers not blame. He insisted we are not going to lose these men on my watch. Work the problem. That was the recurring theme as challenge after challenge surfaced.

I think of this when groups of people begin yelling at each other rather than solving the problem at hand. The real problem, not some made up one used to get elected or postured because it sounded good or made them look smart. Organizations are infested with people who have ideas, even good ones, but don’t get up out of their chair to go do them. They fear backlash for saying or doing something stupid.

The movie had two segments that were said to have really happened. First, they needed to vent air from one exhaust hole that was round from the spacecraft to another that was square in the lunar module. It was a square peg in a round hole exercise. The team on the ground had to figure this out with the parts on board and communicate with the three on board.

Second, the spacecraft had to come back to earth without exceeding 22 amps (I think that was the number). So, the reserve astronaut, Ken Mattingly, was gotten out of bed to help them figure this out in the working model craft. Mattingly was shelved because they thought he had the measles. Things had to be switched on in the right order or the amps would be exceeded and the electronics would shut down. When handed a flashlight, he said only give me things they have on board.

Focus on the problem, people. I do not care whose fault it is. Work the problem. That is what you are paid to do and what we need you to do.

Note: Per Wikipedia, Eugene Francis “Gene” Kranz is an American aerospace engineer, a former fighter pilot, and a retired NASA Flight Director and manager. Kranz served as NASA’s second Chief Flight Director, directing missions of the Gemini and Apollo programs, including the first lunar landing mission, Apollo 11. He is best known for directing the successful efforts by the Mission Control team to save the crew of Apollo 13, and was later portrayed in the major motion picture of the same name by actor Ed Harris. He is also noted for his close-cut flattop hairstyle and the dapper “mission” vests of different styles and materials made by his wife, Marta Kranz, for his Flight Director missions.