In Vegas, winning with knowledge

By Matt Slovick, editor in chief, Glass Magazine

Matt Slovick
One of the final presentations of Glass Week in Vegas was a speech titled “Countdown to Teamwork” by Mike Mullane, who flew three space shuttle missions.

He spoke about self leadership and used the term “normalization of deviance,” which he believes led to the Challenger tragedy. He said under pressure circumstances, people will accept a lower standard of performance. If no immediate bad consequences occur, those lower standards become the norm.

In the shuttle’s case, it was the O rings. Documentation showed they were flawed and were getting burned, but flight after flight launched and landed without a major problem.

“The Challenger was no accident,” Mullane said. “It was a predictable surprise.”

He also said the Challenger did not explode but suffered a catastrophic structural breakdown. The capsule holding the astronauts survived intact. However, NASA had not designed an escape method as it did for Gemini and Apollo. Thus, the astronauts plunged to their deaths.

I’m sure everyone in the room learned something they can take back to their workplaces.

I’m also taking back a signed copy of Mullane’s book “Riding Rockets,” which is Rated R according to the astronaut. I won it during a NASA trivia contest.

Mullane asked who the second American in space was. I shot up my hand like the nerdy kid in high school sitting in the front row (I was in the second row). I answered Gus Grissom, which was correct. Alan Shepard was first; John Glenn third.

Mullane’s second trivia question: How many Americans have walked on the moon? Again, my arm shot up like a rocket (ha ha). Mullane told me I couldn’t win again. The correct answer was 12. Apollo 11 was first, Apollo 17 the last, and Apollo 13 never landed on the moon. After three wrong answers, Richard Green, who was giving the next presentation about the point-supported glass in the Bangkok International Airport, answered 12 (he was in the front row).

Mullane signed the book “Dream Big!”

He’s right. I’m going to go downstairs right now and hit the blackjack table.

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