One of my favorite stories from the Apollo 11 mission (Armstrong, Aldrin, and Collins’s mission to the moon) is from their way back home.
It was time to start the propulsion burn that would accelerate them to 6,188 miles per hour, which would let them escape lunar orbit, and send them back toward Earth.
If they made a mistake here, Armstrong explained, they “would have been in for a long, lonely ride” out into space.
Of course, they’d already made certain everything was in place and pointing in the right direction. But still, we have the transcripts from their radio chatter, and we know that this was their conversation:
Michael Collins: I see a horizon. It looks like we are going forward [laughter] … It is most important that we be going forward [more laughter]. There’s only one really bad mistake you can make here.
Buzz Aldrin: … Are you sure we’re [laughter] … no, let’s see, the motors point this way and the gases escape that way, therefore imparting a thrust that-a-way.
These were serious, successful people doing one of the most complicated things in human history.
Buzz Aldrin’s doctoral thesis was in orbital rendezvous. They knew what they were doing. And yet there was still time to double check, and still time to have fun.
Sometimes, we take ourselves and our work so seriously that we forget two things at once:
That it’s never too late to double check our decisions, and it’s okay—it’s helpful—to have fun when we’re doing hard work.
So, wherever you’re going and whatever you’re working on, remember:
Heading in the right direction will be that much easier if you find a way to enjoy it.
Notes and transcript from James R. Hansen’s biography of Armstrong, First Man