Friday, August 26, 2016

"Apollo 13" (1995)

There are few movies about real events that are more inspiring than “Apollo 13.” For one thing, unlike a lot of other “true Stories” it seems to stick pretty closely to the actual events. And those events include a lot of amazing feats of teamwork. It is like an inspirational poster of a movie.

As the problem begins, and no one knows exactly what is going on, 100s of specialists scramble to speculate and guess what could be wrong based on their narrow areas of expertise. Gene Kranz, the flight director, stops everyone in their tracks. “Let’s work the problem people.”

And of course everyone remembers the famous scene where they need to design a way to connect two incompatible filters to each other, using only what is available up in space. Such a great reminder for strategists who forget that their strategy needs to function within the limitations of their reality.

But my favorite scene has to be the story Jim Lovell tells about the time he was flying a night mission during the war and couldn’t find his carrier that was running without lights. Everything kept going wrong right up to the point where every one of his own lights shorted out and he was left in the pitch dark unable to see anything inside his cabin as well as out. It is only then that he is able to see the faint, natural, phosphorescence that would guide him home.

In a similar way, everything had to go “right” for the Apollo 13 flight to make it home. People had to do their jobs, the astronauts had to perform in incredibly narrow margins of error, and the intangibles and uncontrollables had to work out just right.

And it’s not like these people were better or more deserving than the other men and women before and after who were not as fortunate in space flights. But that is often the nature of blessing. Who can fathom the reasons why God intervenes in some events and not others? By comparison the intricacies of a space mission are far simpler than everything that goes into running the universe according to plan.

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