Apollo 13 Heroes Talk About Success

ORLANDO, Fla. - James Lovell and Gene Kranz know a lot about success and failure. In fact, the whole world knows of their successes and failures. Lovell was the command module commander aboard Apollo 8, man's maiden voyage to the moon, and later Apollo 13, the ill-fated moon mission that turned into an epic life-and-death battle to return to Earth in a crippled spacecraft.

Kranz spent 37 years in the NASA space program and contributed to the success of the Skylab program. He was the flight director who successfully helped bring back Lovell's Apollo 13 spacecraft.

The men shared the stage at the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors (PHCC) Network '05 Conference in Orlando in early September.

Kranz spoke first to the audience of contractors, suppliers, and manufacturers. He likened the meeting that blended the minds of all aspects of the HVAC trade to the space program. "Chemistry leads to communication," he said. "And we must know what the next person thinks."

He said the early days of the space program were tough, but he appreciated the vision of former President John F. Kennedy, who vowed to put a man on the moon before the end of the 1960s. "He wanted to do it not because it was easy –– but because it was difficult," Kranz said.

In order to be successful and avoid failure, Kranz acknowledged that all people must be able to work as a team, combining discipline and focusing on an objective. He said that all team members also need to "check their egos at the door."

Never did that focus become more apparent than after the tragedy of Apollo 1, when three astronauts were burned to death on the launch pad.

"Everyone felt accountable and responsible, and vowed to strive for perfection," he said.

Lovell also talked about the importance of teamwork and leadership, which is necessary to build up trust and belief in getting the job done.

He said, "Motivation is a priority for any business to be successful."

Lovell also spoke about President Kennedy and how the first Apollo space missions were designed for technical success - Kennedy's dream of putting a man on the moon.

Later missions such as his Apollo 13 flight were more scientific in nature, designed to gather data from the moon for further study and analysis.

Lovell's mission was to land on more uneven terrain than had previously been attempted. The mission was aborted when an explosion damaged the command module and forced the three-man crew to make a harrowing flight back to Earth.

Lovell cited the experience as one way to prepare for the worst. "Always expect the unexpected," he said. "Look down the track for symptoms of an impending crisis."

In the end, he said that there are three types of people who can affect the success - or failure - of a business or space mission. "There are people that make things happen, wonder how they happened, or who watch things happening," Lovell noted. "Our Apollo 13 crew made it happen."

Publication date: 10/10/2005

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