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How THE WORLD is like Mission Control: Teamwork

In light of recent, on-going events (COVID-19 for those reading this in the future), I've modified my "How T1D is Like Mission Control" series slightly this week because these comparisons are for all residents of planet Earth - not just those with diabetes. 

If you're not familiar with the series you can click these links to read about Responsibility, Toughness and Competence. In Mission Control we live by, cultivate and hone seven characteristics essential to flight control - the guidelines are called the "Foundations of Flight Operations".  This week I am focusing on TEAMWORK. 

This picture of Earth was taken during the Apollo 13 mission which launched 50 years ago this weekend. It was arguably the most teamwork-intensive mission of the Apollo series due to an explosion that left the spacecraft crippled. The astronauts had to forfeit their chance to walk on the moon and mission control had to engineer flight plans and scrubbers on the fly in order to get the crew home safe. 


"Realizing that we work toward a common goal..." In mission control, our common goal is three-fold: (1) crew safety, (2) vehicle safety, and (3) mission success. This is how we prioritize discussions, formulate troubleshooting plans, and work problems. Through run after run in simulations, we practice recognizing situations where these three aspects are in conflict and work as a team to resolve issues with the first priority always being crew. And now, on this spaceship Earth, we are all in the midst of a giant anomaly - a pandemic, affecting all of precious Earth's "crew". Just as in spaceflight, our common goal must start with crew safety - but that takes teamwork.

"Respecting and utilizing the abilities of others". Yes. This one, right here. Respect for all those on the front lines in the hospitals and clinics, testing stations and urgent cares. Respect for policymakers making tough decisions and begging for more money and supplies to keep their constituents, their "crew" safe. Respect for law enforcement and firefighters, always. Respect for grocery store clerks and stockers, pharmacy technicians, delivery drivers, and customer service representatives. Respect for those making every effort to stay home and the companies that are enabling that. Respect for creatives who are lending their talents virtually to make all of us less stir crazy. Respect for teachers who have been thrust into a whole new teaching medium, and their students who are on the same learning curve. Respect for organizations cancelling huge money-making events in the name of public safety. Respect for manufacturing companies switching out assembly line components to make PPE. Respect for analysts combing the numbers to help everyone make the best decisions.

"...for success depends upon the efforts of all."

I couldn't have said it better myself, NASA.

We are all in this together, we all have a role to play and talents to contribute. And whatever "success" is in this situation - whether flattening the curve or developing new ventilators or manufacturing more PPE or researching vaccines and treatments or caring for those who are sick - it depends upon the efforts of all. This generation may not have its "Apollo moment" yet, where the world came together and everyone, regardless of nationality felt a collective push forward as humankind, but in the midst of such a worldwide crisis, I'd like to think we will look back on it with similar feelings - working towards the common good, a time to bind together, a moment of sheer Earth Teamwork - with the deepest tenderness for those lost.

Godspeed fellow crewmates.

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