This past week we celebrated the 45th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. And in 16 years, according to NASA’s latest projections, humans will be stepping foot on another celestial body — Mars!
Meanwhile, today marked the completion of the second Hawai‘i Space Exploration Analog and Simulation (HI-SEAS) mission. HI-SEAS, run by the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa and led by Principal Investigator Dr. Kim Binstead is funded by the NASA Human Research Program and consists of four missions, ranging from four months to one year in duration. These missions are being used by researchers to determine the challenges that will face those who take our first steps on the long journey to Mars. Primarily focused on the psychological issues that will face crews on long duration, close confines space missions, there are also opportunistic research studies. From advanced clothing that is bacteria and odor-resistant, to cooking and food preparation using both freeze-dried and shelf-stable ingredients, to the use and capabilities of 3D printers, HI-SEAS strives to provide a high fidelity analog environment to study the challenges that will face humans as we venture further into the universe.
It has been my privilege and pleasure to volunteer for the HI-SEAS program since the first mission as a member of the mission support team, specifically what is referred to as First Tier Support (FTS). As someone who is neither a scientist nor (currently) an engineer, I know I certainly won’t be on any space mission going anywhere – Mars, the Moon, or even Low Earth Orbit, any time soon. Let’s forget the fact that I’m 6’ 5” tall and won’t fit into any spacecraft currently available. However, working in a mission support role for HI-SEAS, along with the Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS), I hope that in some small way I am helping pave the way for the future explorers that will make their way to Mars and beyond. There have been challenges faced in both missions, as I’m sure there will be in the coming missions, yet the lessons learned will surely help researchers and scientists create new methods and procedures to make future analog simulations, and even more important, real world missions, even better.
Welcome home Casey, Ross, Lucie, Tiffany, and Anne! Let’s keep exploring!
What a gorgeous view of the Washington, DC area as seen from the International Space Station! Taken by Astronaut Reid Wiseman (@astro_reid) using an 800mm lens.
Image Credit: Reid Wiseman/NASA
Ten years ago today, this beauty – SpaceShipOne, now in Milestones of Flight at the Air and Space Museum, was the first private piloted vehicle in space!
While on a business trip to the Space Coast this week I was able to stop by the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex and finally got to see the Atlantis exhibit. The last time I had seen Atlantis (OV-104), she was about to get shrink-wrapped while they built the exhibit around the orbiter. And wow, what a great job they did! You truly have to experience the exhibit to believe it. Sadly, the Space Shuttles are no longer flying but Atlantis is truly “home”!
Looking back over the past century, when did we begin to worry so much about risk that we have stopped living on the edge of possibilities and strayed back to the safety of the ensured? Just think in the past one hundred or so years we have seen the invention of the modern automobile allowing humans to travel faster than ever before and allowing easier travel over great distances. Let us not forget about the Wright Brothers who with their invention of the airplane allowed humans to take flight. Moreover, if we are talking about airplane it must be mentioned the invention of the rocket allowing humans to take that giant leap, a huge risk, and leave our planet Earth for the first time ever! Something that most thought to be impossible not that many years prior.
These are great achievements just in a short period but if we look even further back we see even greater risks that humanity has achieved. One that quickly pops to mind is the journey of Christopher Columbus to sail west across the vastness across the Atlantic Ocean in an effort to find the East Indies. What a risk not only Christopher Columbus took along with his sailors but also King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella who financed the trip! One wonders though how many risk mitigation strategies they had in place or what type of risk identification they took before authorizing the trip.
Obviously, in each of these cases throughout history risk management has played a part to one extent or another. When NASA sent Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins to the Moon, the risks were determined and mitigated for the issues that might arise on their journey. However, would that be even possible today? With risk management one of the top buzzwords across corporate America today, can we even begin to envision the next hundred years achieving as much as we have in the past? As a project manager, I have seen countless cases of project failures and one area that is constantly focused on as a cause of the failure is risk management. We seem to think that we can prepare for every eventually and then create a plan to mitigate or defuse those risks. But at times, all we can do is hope for the best and prepare for the worst. Using the example of Apollo 11 again, we see that President Nixon had two speeches prepared, one for the success of the mission, and one if we never were to see those astronauts again.
Sometimes we need to realize we are not perfect and no matter how much risk management you put into a project there is no way you will be able to fully understand all of the risks that may arise. This is especially true for our ventures on the edge of possibilities. If we do not ignore the risk of taking a step over that edge, we will no longer be able to push the road of possibilities even further into the realm of the impossible. Risk management is a benefit to helping control costs, reduce failure, and keeping a project on what is usually a tight schedule to begin with but too much risk management is a risk unto itself. Is too much risk management holding you back from reaching the edge of possibility?