I have spent some time reliving my youth. I just finished reading “A Man on the Moon” by Andrew Chaikin about the voyages of the Apollo Astronauts. It was entertaining, but it also gave a clear picture about the varying leadership styles within the Apollo program from administrators to lunar module commanders.
In addition, it also painted a very clear picture of the teamwork that was necessary for the program to achieve the success that it did. This is best represented by a quote from Ken Mattingly, who was scratched from the Apollo 13 crew due to potential illness, but finally reached the moon on Apollo 16. He said: “It was being part of a team that was dedicated to something that transcended individual aspirations.” The reliance and confidence of the Apollo crews upon each other and those in Mission Control and the various manufacturers makes for an intriguing read.
The Apollo program was the last great undertaking that occurred in the United States that was approached with a national sense of optimism. It was looking forward to the future with a clearly defined objective. It was achieved during a time of great upheaval in this country: the Civil Rights movement, the Cold War and the Vietnam War. Unfortunately, the political climate has changed radically since then and partisan politics will not allow such a sense of optimism to flourish even when there is unrest within our country.
I remain hopeful that someday, we will be able as a country to again find the optimism to undertake another great national project that looks towards the future and ignites the imagination of a generation.