Hello and welcome to the Leadership Done Right podcast, Episode 11: Failure Is Not An Option – 5 Lessons From Apollo 13.
Apollo 13 was the seventh manned mission in the Apollo space program and the third intended to land on the Moon. The craft was launched on April 11, 1970, at 1:13 PM CST from the Kennedy Space Center, Florida, but the lunar landing was aborted after an oxygen tank exploded two days later, crippling the Service Module (SM) upon which the Command Module (CM) had depended.
Following the explosion, the crew onboard realized there were many problems with their equipment. Their chance to make it back to earth kept dwindling as time went on. Flight Control located in Houston, urgently provided assistance in resolving the issues they were encountering. They had to desperately search for answers to unique problems. They listed all the problems they could think of.
- Batteries may freeze
- Water system may freeze
- Propellant may freeze
- There were a large number survival issues
- How do we get back through the earth’s atmosphere
Failure is Not An Option
Once they had their laundry list of challenges and possible failures, Gene Kranz, NASA Flight Director, gave the team their mandate. He said, “We have never lost an American in Space, we are not going to lose one now cause FAILURE IS NOT AN OPTION! And from that moment forward, their team… my team, had the direction they needed to go. And over the next four days pulled off a miracle.” Despite great hardship caused by limited power, loss of cabin heat, shortage of potable water, and the critical need to make makeshift repairs to the carbon dioxide removal system, the crew returned safely to Earth on April 17, 1970, six days after launch.
YouTube Video of Gene Kranz’s firsthand account of Apollo 13:
- Gene Kranz: Failure is Not an Option: The Apollo 13 Story (Part 1)
- Gene Kranz: Failure is Not an Option: The Apollo 13 Story (Part 2)
- Gene Kranz: Failure is Not an Option: The Apollo 13 Story (Part 3)
Lessons From Failure Is Not An Option
Apollo 13 could’ve been a complete disaster and catastrophe. Instead, both the crew aboard Apollo 13 and Flight Control learned materials that didn’t work and steps they can take to improve. They
1. Don’t give up when the going gets tough
2. Think of unique solutions
3. Be committed to your cause
4. Have faith in your team
5. Inspire those you lead to do their best
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