Watching the Olympics over the past days has been inspiring to old and young. Everyone hopes the games will spur the next generation to engage in sports and see role models in their Olympic favorites. Likewise, seeing the joy and exhilaration on the faces of engineers and scientists at the NASA station on 5 August 2012 as they discovered that the Mars rover Curiosity had landed safely was just as compelling, even far more compelling in my mind.
A problem is that you can’t find a Usain Bolt or Jessica Ennis in the control room – only a team of dedicated scientists and engineers. Perhaps that is the key inspiration that might come from Curiosity – the significance of team work in the new era. Of course this comes across in the Olympics as well when credit to a basketball or football team is assigned to them working like a team rather than a set of individual stars, but at the end of the day, we focus primarily on individuals rather than teams, and this might be a fault that Curiosity could help address.
Surfing through life is often – almost always – about the individual, but the surfer is one piece of a larger technical system of tools and techniques designed by people around the world to ride the waves. Congratulations to the team at NASA – a continuing role model for teams across the world.