Frontiers of Discovery : High and Deep

Taken from Presentations at a major Health and Safety Conference Mississauga ON

Commander Chris Hadfield: Take a farm boy from Milton ON and submit him to training in engineering, aviation, test piloting, NASA orientation, Space Shuttle flights, partnership in Russian Soyuz Space Station missions and joint space research projects. Slowly simmer for 21 years and you have the material, intelligence, stamina, judgment and caution necessary to command the International Space Station racing around the earth for 5 months (2013). Give him a camera, a guitar and a computer link-up and he becomes a worldwide social network phenomenon, capturing the imagination of millions, and reinforcing the fact that we are a tiny global community intensely connected, in the midst of a universe full of wonder.

That’s the artistic and humanitarian consideration. The scientific one has to do with remarkable observations and experiments in other-worldly, zero gravity environment above our beautiful blue green and beige planet. Risk assessment with NASA seems over the top. Every astronaut constantly asks the questions “What might kill me today. How can I prepare. Who has the threshold skills. Where to go to research solutions and alternatives ways of responding in advance. Let’s think-tank on this and refine and refine.”

Four days before scheduled earth return this kind of training became essential as the crew discovered a leak of ammonia from the station tanks (the basic ingredient of the station’s cooling system). A space walk for repair became necessary and in record time. Hadfield already knew the players and their intense level of training in the relevant areas. The result was totally successful. Good to know your men and women, their capabilities and temperaments. Good to know everything, virtually everything, about the space station as big as a football field.

And about medical procedures, nutrition, wilderness survival, electrical systems, computer repair, orienteering, Russian language…and of course that guitar.

Doctor Joe MacInnis: Trained as a physician at the University of Toronto, Dr. MacInnis, not a superior academic, drove himself into the passion for Leadership in High Risk Environments (arctic, submarine, military, rescue, anti-terrorist) doing high life-threatening assignments. He went under the Arctic Ocean for many government sponsored research dives and to retrieve sunken wooden sailing craft. He accompanied special operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and Colombia. His dear friend movie-maker and oceanographer James Cameron invited him to team up in a mission to drop a high-tech submersible to the bottom of the ocean east of Philippines in the Mariana Trench. Seven miles down. Never done before. Trips had gone to the Titanic about 4 miles down. Dr MacInnis was asked to spearhead media coverage and all the medical and emotional needs of a team of 34 on an Australian ship carrying an Australian-made submarine. The construction and mission and publicity received support from National Geographic, Rolex and James Cameron personally.

The crew experienced an immense setback from a helicopter accident in rough weather killing two team members.

A test drop near Papua /New Guinea to a depth of 4 miles was aborted when Cameron experienced major systems failures in communication, lighting and environment. The little pressurized operator’s fish eye/compartment at the bottom of this long and heavy green steel cigar proved intensely uncomfortable. Rigged for the exterior with revolutionary IMAX cameras and functional arms and huge battery packs and light fixtures.

In a total of 60 days the team accomplished construction, travel, test measures and target dive. Water pressure down there in the darkness and cold, approached 8 tons per square inch! For leader James Cameron this consummated a seven year vision and effort. Truly he was the courageous and well-liked commander.

Morale on board was so very important to the Doctor.. “Press forward one day at a time”. He saw the genius of leadership and teamwork as follows:

  1. Enhance Empathy (getting inside the other guy’s heart and hopes and limitations)
  2. Elevate Eloquence (a common, concise language of terms and specifications clearly understood. An encouragement of suggestions and opinion exchange in a spirit of courtesy)
  3. Amplify Endurance ( the colossal tasks require physical refinement and drive in positive work ethic)

Not too difficult to imagine how these guidelines can impact initiatives in the workplace that work toward partnered agendas of accomplishment and improvement.

Note: The reader here might have a look at Psalm 19.


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Married and father of two. Living in Waterloo, Ontario. Workplace health and safety professional. Blogger. Poet. Nature hiker. History buff. Inspirational writer. Newsboy for Jesus.

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