Apollo 12;

Photo by Photo by airandspace.si.edu

Is it still flying?

I recently was digging in boxes of “stuff” I’ve been accumulating to decide if it is worthy for further saving. Interestingly, I found an old magazine that talked about the space program. One article grabbed my attention. Here is an excerpt from an interview with Capt. Alan Bean, an Apollo astronaut.

“Test pilots have a litmus test for evaluating problems. When something goes wrong, they ask, ‘Is this thing still flying?’ If the answer is yes, then there’s no immediate danger, no need to overreact. When Apollo 12 took off, the spacecraft was hit by lightning. The entire console began to glow with orange and red trouble lights. There was a temptation to ‘Do Some-thing!’ But the pilots asked themselves, ‘Is this thing still flying in the right direction?’ The answer was yes — it was headed for the moon. They let the lights glow as they addressed the individual problems, and watched orange and red lights blink out, one by one. That’s some-thing to think about in any pressure situation. If your thing is still flying, think first, and then act.”

Yesterday I had a very frustrating situation that made me angry and wanting to retaliate and attack the problem with some strong decisive actions. I went out-side and attacked some bushes that needed to be removed and thought through the problem. I asked myself, “Is this thing still flying?”  The answer was a yes and it wasn’t life threatening but a situation I could manage step-by-step with a cool head and wisdom versus over reacting.

As I hear about international and national issues that create fear, anger and reaction. I wonder if leaders are asking the same good question, “Is it still flying?”  I doubt it by some of the news. It’s not a bad practice to listen to the test pi-lots to evaluate problems.

I face today’s and tomorrow’s challenges

that can cause immediate fear and overreaction. I can spew out words that could destroy instead of build. I can physically lash out in anger and create a worse situation and solve nothing. I can slump into hopelessness and helplessness and be defeated before making any gesture of solving the issue. Or, I can stop, think, pray and ask, “Is my life still flying and going in the right direction?”

Our Creator gave us resources to pause to do the right thing, in the right time. We need to look and see how we handle our emergencies in life in order to keep flying in the right direction. Because we are made of the right stuff, maybe we’ll end up on the moon after all. 

By Retired Chaplain (Brig. Gen.) Ray Bailey

Former Deputy Chief of Chaplains