Sometimes, considering the big picture of earths place in the universe helps put minor planetary concerns like the current financial crisis into proper perspective.
On Friday, the space shuttle Endeavour the 124th shuttle mission and the 27th flight to the International Space Station (ISS) successfully lifted off from NASAs Kennedy Space Centre in Florida, carrying a crew of seven intrepid astronauts. This STS-126 mission is planned to feature four spacewalks and, whats been termed home renovation work to enable the space station to properly accommodate six crew members for long-duration missions, double its current capacity.
While senior IT executives working for their enterprises on this blue planet we call home, struggle to minimize the risks of their earth-bound technology, the professionals at NASA and the brave astronauts, have again taken the ultimate risk in putting their lives in the hands of sophisticated technology. The numerous space shuttle disasters have shown this risk to be all too real. NASA plans to retire its space shuttle fleet by 2010, and to replace it with a different crew-carrying vehicle in line with President Bushs announced plans to return human explorers to the moon and to send them to Mars and beyond.
Since the start of this 21st century, human beings have lived on the International Space Station research facility, which started construction in 1998 and is now twice the size and mass of the previous Russian space station Mir. Now about 85 per cent complete, the ISS is the most complex international scientific project in history. Since 2000, without much fanfare, with many everyday people unaware about their feats, astronauts have been orbiting the earth at some 17,500 miles an hour, about 350 kilometres above the worlds surface. In all, 167 people, representing 14 countries have visited the ISS complex. I cant help but admire the persistence and determination of NASA, in the face of tremendous odds, in its quest for space exploration.
The space station is a joint humankind project among the space agencies of the United States (NASA), Russia (RKA), Japan (JAXA), Canada (CSA) and 11 European countries (ESA). The successful cooperation of this significant conglomeration of nations, shown by the International Space Station, should give great hope that the worlds leaders can also work together to overcome the current financial uncertainty. Perhaps it will also be some solace for senior IT executives back here on earth, to realize that their technology challenges, while they may be difficult, pale when compared to what NASA confronts every day with the International Space Station.
Humanity thrives on difficult challenges and has shown it can emerge stronger, so its worth maintaining a sense of optimism, despite the current temptation to join the gloom generated by the worlds financial worries.
Ross O. Storey, currently the Managing Editor of Fairfax Business Media Asia, is responsible for the editorial content and production of MIS Asia, CIO Asia, Computerworld Singapore and Computerworld Malaysia magazines.
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