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The harder the overtime, the more achievements? At NASA, this is called Go Fever.

via:博客园     time:2019/3/29 17:33:18     readed:162

Wen / Yu Sheng

As we all know, production activities are limited by resources. Agriculture is limited by sunshine, rainwater and fertilizer, while industry is restricted by raw materials and energy. Increased input of resources will, of course, lead to increased output. But this increase is not unlimited. In agriculture, too much fertilization will be counterproductive. In industry, blindly piling up raw materials will only lead to a sharp increase in inventory pressure and slow capital turnover.

What about the high-tech industry?

The IT industry has not yet reached a final conclusion, but NASA has learned a painful lesson in the same high-tech space industry. In this state, NASA is called Go Fever, and even Wikipedia has special entries.


In the early 1960s, the United States lagged behind the Soviet Union in manned space flight. Both the first satellite and the first astronaut were robbed by the Soviet Union. However, unlike the Soviet Union's direct military-based, secret space missions, the United States must characterize NASA as a civilian agency, and the first manned space flight (actually not in Earth orbit) carried out a full-range television broadcast, of course, with extraordinary influence.


Kennedy addressed Congress. Source: NASA

NASA also selected the first astronauts to go to the moon. They are respectively:


Ed White's First Exit Activity (EVA). Source: NASA


From left to right: White, Gus, Chafee. Source: NASA

The drill stopped and everybody tried to solve the communication problem. It was 5:40 p.m. to start countdown again. By 6:20, most countdown functions were ready, but until 6:30, the countdown remained in the state of 10 minutes from ignition.

The situation is extremely urgent. The most urgent thing is to extinguish the fire and rescue people. However, unfortunately, there are many factors.

First of all, the way of oxygen supply for spacecraft in the United States and the Soviet Union is different. The Soviets filled the spacecraft with a mixture of air-like gases, about 70% nitrogen plus about 30% oxygen. NASA has considered this option before, but is worried that nitrogen will lead to decompression sickness when the pressure drops rapidly. At the same time, NASA decided to use pure oxygen because of the accident of nitrogen leak leading to insufficient oxygen intake for test pilots. There are two other advantages. First, it saves the weight of nitrogen equipment. Every gram of weight is valuable in space missions. Second, it is unnecessary for astronauts to transit when they leave the cabin. It is important to know that Soviet astronauts must first absorb pure oxygen in the ballast tank before leaving the cabin.

Even worse, because of the lack of emergency fire preparedness before, their arrival path to the scene is not smooth enough, all kinds of corners, stairs, safety doors will affect the speed. After arriving at the scene, there were not enough gas masks and fire extinguishing facilities (gas masks were equipped to prevent poison but could not cope with ordinary smoke). The spacecraft and launch pad were also covered with flames and smoke, and they were helpless at first.

Originally, if the time is enough and the work is enough patience, these problems can be found and prevented in advance, and the tragedy will not happen. But during that time, NASA was in a state of high tension from top to bottom. Faster is not enough, but faster. 24 hours a day is not enough. Indeed, unlike agriculture and industry, the high-tech industry is subject to many restrictions of natural conditions, but the high-tech industry also has its own laws. If we blindly catch up with the progress and disrespect the law, the result is often tragedy.


Apollo 1 after the fire. Source: NASA

After inspection, it was found that three astronauts had died just ten seconds after the fire broke out. Although they were all severely burned. At the beginning of the fire, they were all trying to save themselves. If the hatch door could be opened in time, they might survive. Unfortunately, the real cause of death is not burns, but suffocation caused by poisonous smoke. However, because the cabin was full of combustibles and burned fiercely, many things had melted after the fire, and it took rescuers 90 minutes to transfer the bodies of the three astronauts outside the cabin.


The remains of the astronauts. Source: NASA


On Wiki, there is the word Go Fever. I translated the explanation into Chinese:

In the American aerospace industry, Go Fever is an informal term referring to a top-down attitude that is keen to catch up with progress, or ignores potential problems or errors and is eager to complete a project. Both individual and collective actions can produce Go Fever.

The reason may be that individuals stick to their commitments to previous goals without considering that costs have risen, profits have fallen, and commitments have become unrealistic. It may also be that budgets have received too much attention, or the collective atmosphere: everyone is afraid of being a laggard in the group, and everyone is afraid of dragging down the overall progress.

Although everyone knows that Go Fever is wrong, many people take chances. After the accident, the morale of the whole team is greatly affected. In interviews many years later, Chris Kraft, the first commander-in-chief of flight, was particularly sad.

However, in the face of low morale, manned space missions can not stagnate. Someone must stand up and reverse the atmosphere. The next day, Gene Kranz, the legendary commander-in-chief of flight, gave a famous speech, emphasizing the two qualities of manned space flight: Tough and Competence.


Left: Gene Kranz, right: The character played by Ed Harris in the movie Apollo 13 is based on him.

This is also a legendary speech in the history of NASA. Tough and Competence are also regarded as the important spirit of NASA, which has continued to this day. I translate the full text as follows:

Space missions can never tolerate carelessness, incompetence and negligence. In the past, somewhere, for some reason, we screwed up. The reason may be in design, assembly or testing. Whatever it is, we should find it out. In the past, we were obsessed with schedules and focused on all the problems we see at work every day. Every element of the plan is in trouble, and so is ourselves. The simulator can't work, the command center has schedule delays in almost every field, flight and test procedures have to be changed every day, and our work results can't be guaranteed.

Perseverance means that we are always responsible for what we have done and what we have not done. We will never pass the buck again. Every time we walk into the command center, we know the responsibility on our shoulders.

Competence means that we will never take anything for granted. Our knowledge and skills are always insufficient, and space missions are never perfect.

Personal feelings

I often say that there are many similarities between space flight and IT. The same is true of Go Fever.

However, there are many cases of failure due to overtime, forgetting to eat and sleep, and catching up with the progress. It is only rarely reported (in fact, there are many IT books telling such stories, such as "The Myth of Man and Moon" and "The Phoenix Story" and so on). It is only because the accident of manned space flight is so big that Go Fever is known and valued by many people.

But once it's over,Long-term overtime will lead to changes in the focus of work, focusing not on the completion of the ultimate goal, but on the procedural completion of the daily workload.。 However,High-tech projects often need to find and solve unexpected problems, which is just the blank of procedural work.

It seems easy to understand that the real difficulty lies in: who can see the red line? Who can understand this law? Who can prove this rule? Who recognizes the red line?

Gentlemen, we have enough confidence in our plans. Now the question is, do you have confidence in us?

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