On February 20th, 1962, John Glenn aboard the space craft Friendship 7 became the first American to orbit the earth. His flight was part of Project Mercury space program which was created immediately after the soviets put Sputnik 1 into orbit, initiating the Space Race. The Space Race was not founded upon ideals of exploration and the final frontier, that was marketing spin to get the proper funding and press coverage. The Space Race was part of the Nuclear Arms Race. In the early 1950’s, the soviet union struggled to develop effective long range bombers to deliver nuclear weapons and did not have the military bases and allies across the world to deploy bombers. Instead, they experimented and invested in intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs).
After World War II, ICBMs were developed by many nations modifying designs of Hitler’s V-2 rocket. The United States did not invest much in the technology because they had the bombers and the air bases they needed to effectively deliver nuclear weapons across the world. When the USSR launched Sputnik, the US was behind. Major funding was approved and two million civilians and military people were mobilized to respond. It took less than four years for the Project Mercury team to deliver on what they promised; to put a human being in to orbit and return them to earth safely.
Today marks 55 years since the penultimate achievement of Project Mercury. While many will remember John Glenn, I focus on those two million people who had a part in the mission. It is extremely rare to have the singular goal, the leadership and the alignment to achieve a result so quickly. To be part of that team is to be part of a historical feat that has changed the world.
To be proud of what our nation accomplished is certainly worth taking a moment. But to recognize the feat of mobilization of that many people, the multi-tiered collaboration required, is quite another. Consider this when mobilizing your team, your family, and setting your goals.