Sunday, September 4, 2022

Failure is not an option — it’s a prerequisite

It is just the case to bother the words of President Kennedy during one of his speeches, in 1961, in front of the audience of Rice University said: "... We chose to go to the moon not because it is easy but because it is difficult...". 

Success is much harder to analyze than failure. When things go wrong in a space program, it’s usually possible to figure out the causes and resolve to avoid those things in the future. But when things go right, it’s difficult to know why. Which factors were important to the success, and which weren’t? Was the success due to skill, or just luck? If we are to learn to deal with hazardous technologies, our best bet is to look for models that manage risk successfully and see how they do it.

Yes, because contrary to what some people think, going to the Moon is complicated and it is not the same as going to space around the Earth where we have so much experience. Before t/he flight of Saturn 5 succeeded, even at the time there were many failures before and even at the time the first was unmanned. The Apollo 1 tragedy, where three astronauts died, and the two space shuttle tragedies, where many other astronauts died, taught us to take it slow because there are lives at stake. 

Man is the most resilient creature ever created; we can survive anything and bounce back, no manner what the problem; bankrupts are able to pick up and make better businesses, refugees who have lost everything in conflicts are able, after a few years, to rebuilt their lives, after terrible illness we are able to get back on our feet again. We are also the most adaptable creature and can live anywhere – out in space, in the wastes of the artic, the jungles of South America, the deserts of the Sahara – anywhere!

In the '60s and '70s, unlike those who ignore the facts, it was not easy to get to the moon and today, after about 50 years, we do not want to do the same. We want to do better because this time we want to stick around. 

This is why we have designed a new rocket that must be tested first and when you test something for the first time you almost always come across unexpected events.

How many people ask, "Couldn’t you use the old rocket instead of building a new one?" the answer can only be one: "But why buy new cars? Couldn’t you use an old 500 for the trip from Los Angeles to New York?

Knowing this, failure is not an option — it’s a prerequisite.

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