Success in Spaceflight: The Human System

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What are the keys to success in spaceflight projects? What are the causes of failure? In this most unforgiving of human endeavors, the surprising answer is that the “rocket science” isn’t the hardest part. Ultimately, it comes down to how we think about the work, and the human behaviors that shape how we do the work. Success is critically dependent on such variables as whether or not we maintain a balance between ego and humility, and whether we remain open to new information that conflicts with our world view. It hinges on whether we indulge—even unconsciously—in all-too-common human behaviors like false perception of risk, hubris, groupthink, and that bane of technical organizations called the Not Invented Here syndrome. In spaceflight, we cannot afford those indulgences: They can be fatal. Fortunately, there are time-tested modes of thinking and behaviors that enhance our chances for success, when we choose to rigorously employ them.

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