Highlights from Failure is Not an Option

My favorite highlights from the excellent Failure is Not an Option: Mission Control from Mercury to Apollo 13 and Beyond:

There are old pilots, and there are bold pilots, but there are no old, bold pilots.

At that moment, I also realized that learning by doing was the only way a controller could ever become smart enough to succeed in the tough and unforgiving environment of spaceflight operations.

It isn’t equipment that wins the battles; it is the quality and the determination of the people fighting for a cause in which they believe.

Moral: if you ask enough people, you’ll find someone who will disagree with the majority and give those nervous about risk a way out.

…the teacher’s role is to instill the confidence to fly at the edge of peak performance.

I determined what my real capacity was and discovered that for much of my life I had just been coasting along.

When you leave this meeting today you will go to your office and the first thing you will do there is to write ‘Tough and Competent’ on your blackboards. It will never be erased. Each day when you enter the room these words will remind you of the price paid by Grissom, White, and Chaffee. These words are the price of admission to the ranks of Mission Control.

The brain of the LM was housed in a state-of-the-art computer with 36,864-word fixed and 2,048-word erasable memory.

Apollo succeeded at critical moments like this because the bosses had no hesitation about assigning crucial tasks to one individual, trusting his judgment, and then getting out of his way.