My recent visit to Red Rocks Amphitheatre was phenomenal, even surreal! Not for the obvious reasons, but for who I met there.
Red Rocks is an hour’s drive from my home. I went there to shoot some video and comment on the fact that it was built by the CCC during the Great Depression. I wondered at how such a magnificent structure could be built in times of such hardship. But while there, I saw an elderly man sitting on a bench and struck up a conversation with him.
He turned out to be 96-year-old Alfred Sonder on a visit to Denver to visit family. But between 1961 and 1966 he was the Deputy Director of NASA’s Gemini Launch Program. Yes, you read that right. What are the odds of this chance meeting?
As a reminder, Gemini was the second NASA astronaut program. It transported two-person crews into orbit for longer periods of time, developed in-space docking and rendezvous capabilities, and set the stage for the Apollo missions to the moon and so much more.
I sat down, asked Alfred an open-ended question, and listened. I expected to hear wonderful stories of great achievements. Instead, he spoke about the many setbacks and failures they experienced during the program. For Alfred, each one was an incredible learning event and signaled progress. He described what they did in the following way: try something, measure the results, apply what was learned, try again, and repeat the sequence.
Alfred’s son eventually tracked him down and apologetically said they had to move on to their next stop.
Alfred’s parting advice to me was that rocket science and life are similar. “Just keep trying and eventually your rocket will launch.”
I hope you have a wonderful week!