Making a Difference

When I started blogging, it was in connection with my work, at that time as a government civil servant. I tried to stay strictly on topic (space) and never ever brought my own personal poltical views or religious thoughts into it. Wouldn’t have been proper. Now in my retirement I don’t have that ethical restriction on my private blog but haven’t gone there out of habit. But it leaves a big part of me out when I don’t share those things.

I have had the opportunity to work with people in high places and perhaps influence major policy decisions. That certainly is considered important in some circles. I had an encounter of the policy type last week as you know if you regularly follow my blog.

Later today I’m starting a week which will be quite different. Along with about a hundred college students I am going to be working out in the Houston summer heat and humidity on house repairs for elderly and disabled people in urban Houston. None of those people have any political clout whatsoever. That is not what it is about. If you are interested in learning a little more, check out the organization’s website

In the bigger scheme of things, which activity, last week’s or this week’s, is more important?

That is not a trick question. I think it is a very profound question.

Mother Teresa once said: “We do no great things. We only do small things, with great love.”

I’ll report in at the end of the week, don’t look for me in cyber space in the meantime.

About waynehale

Wayne Hale is retired from NASA after 32 years. In his career he was the Space Shuttle Program Manager or Deputy for 5 years, a Space Shuttle Flight Director for 40 missions, and is currently a consultant and full time grandpa. He is available for speaking engagements through Special Aerospace Services.
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13 Responses to Making a Difference

  1. kennethpkatz says:

    I disagree with Mother Teresa. There are both great things and small things. They are both important. The accumulation of small things is a great thing, and then there are great things that are important but must be remembered are built of a foundation of small things.

  2. Nick Judge says:

    Always love your blog posts, Wayne. I remember meeting you at MIT a few years back when I was a grad student, and struck by your later comment to me that you were disappointed in the class as we asked so few questions of you. It always stuck with me, and that challenge helped make me better in my job. Keep up the great work, both in your local community and our space community.

  3. FG says:

    Great to hear Wayne. Do good work.

  4. Warren Platts says:

    As to the question you asked: it could be rephrased as: Which activity actually makes a concrete difference? Given that testifying in front of a couple of bored senators rarely changes anything, helping out with needed house repairs for elderly disabled people is the more worthwhile, if not the more glamorous, activity IMHO–and probably more fun and personally rewarding as well….

  5. Todd Martin says:

    What to do in life, whether it be in retirement, after work, or between classes, etc. is an opportunity that we should hold very dear. Yes, it can define a person, provide meaning or purpose, solace, joy, gratitude, or any number of emotions.

    I believe it is common sense that a person should contribute in ways that leverage both their talents and their passions. If there is conflict between the two, I find it is easier to overcome lack of talent than lack of motivation. Not every cause is equal; life isn’t that simple. I get that. Luckily, no one is indispensable; so you don’t have to chase that hard choice of world’s greatest need.

    I’m grateful your life has followed a career of public service in Civil Space. So long as you are passionate about the goals of space flight, it is still a wonderful choice to devote time and effort.

  6. ken anthony says:

    It is a very profound question. The simple ones often are. The answer is equally simple.

    Whatever your hands find to do… Ecclesiastes 9:10, Colossians 3:23

    Be humble, the question involves the knowledge problem.

  7. spacebrat1 says:

    you are a wise man to follow your heart. thanks for the public service once again.

  8. Beth Webber says:

    Giving from the heart benefits both you and the recipient. The elderly who will get needed home repairs, and the nation that will get valuable insight both benefit from your generosity.

  9. jlspence99 says:

    Interesting question Wayne that I’ve been asking myself more and more often the last few years. I’ve devoted much of my 30 year career in government service to advancing the ball of human exploration of space. I keep a picture of Von Braun on my wall for inspiration, along with pictures of the crews of Challenger and Columbia to remind me of the consequences of our failures. I’ve also become an active participant in my church’s local and international mission trips. I do feel like I’ve done more for the greater good of man by helping to rebuild a church in Chile that was demolished by the earthquake in 2010 and by digging latrines and putting a water purification system in a poor sugar cane batey in the Dominican Republic. I don’t really think anything I (or the Agency, for that matter) has done in the last 30 years has appreciably moved the human exploration ball forward.

  10. cathynd95 says:

    Go forth and do good in the world.

  11. Je says:

    A very appropriate thought. We participated with Habitat for Humanity up in Alvin for years. As part of this activity, my wife decided to track the children of these families. In each house the USA team built, we installed a computer for the children. At back to school time, my wife organized a drive a church for school supplies. To date, all the children have graduated from high school and several have moved on to college. It did not take a great deal of effort on our part but the results are great. It would be wonderful if everyone who is blessed could find a little to help those less fortunate. Good work Wayne.

  12. Paul says:

    Hi Wayne, thanks for a great informative blog. In line with this “Making a Difference” topic I would love it if you could clarify an issue that has been of interest to me. During the Atlantis space flight
    there were three objects seen moving around the shuttle. You mentioned in an interview that you have chased “many many many of these things” . It would be great to hear in your own personal view what you think these objects were and can you clarify some other missions that this occurred. For me personally I am interested to know if these things always appear to form an exact equilateral triangle shape similar to the objects in the Atlantis mission.

    • waynehale says:

      Generally trash from the payload bay. This detrius came in all shapes. Geometric shaped objects were generally thermal protection material which came loose. We typically saw trash float out of the payload bay on first opening the doors on orbit or after some energetic activity by the attitude control thrusters.

      When I say ‘chased’ I mean that in an analytical sense by looking at the video or still pictures. We were always concerned some critical part might have come off, but it always turned out to be of no consequence.

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