Years ago a state university in an African country launched a satellite. The satellite designs and drawings were stolen from the university’s campus and the satellite itself was removed from the atmosphere!
This country’s students or citizens didn’t joke about the incident, but social media users started a feast of entertainment and satire on the development. Newspapers and the media didn’t engage in a campaign to undermine the university or the concerned staff. Instead, society closed ranks behind the university until readiness was announced to launch another satellite two years later.
In Egypt – years ago – communication was lost with the Egyptian Satellite (EgyptSat). There were Egyptian scientists among the working team in both design and administration. The Egyptian media began raving and ridiculing and an obscene and arrogant attack followed in cyberspace. Countries don't rise all at once. Even the most advanced stumbled backwards before they made one step forward.
Sun Yat Sen, the Chinese philosopher and one of the hope makers in our world, used to view any failure as a temporary failure; just a page in a book and that the second and third failures are the same. What’s important is that one shouldn’t succumb to despair. Among Sun Yat Sen’s most edifying quotes on disdaining failure and realising triumph is the following: “This was just our first failure. This was just our second failure. This was just our third failure." He goes on: “This was just our thirteenth failure. In the fourteenth attempt triumph was realised, after thirteen noble failed attempts!”
Reading the chronicles of the “space race” between the Soviet Union and the United States following World War II and throughout the Cold War gives countries a thousand lessons on how to manage failure and invest on the back of mistakes. The Soviet space programme was top secret. There was no information available for anyone except what the Soviet Union itself announced. Only successful experiments were announced. It isn’t logical that famous Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin was the first cosmonaut in history. Gagarin was simply the first cosmonaut in history to return alive. American circles speak about the death of four cosmonauts before Gagarin.
Western circles hold the view that the number is bigger than that and that 10 Soviet cosmonauts died during attempts to invade space before Gagarin. In 1963, Valentina Tereshkova was the first woman in history to succeed in entering space, following Gagarin in 1961. According to the official version, no Soviet woman has ever gone to space between Gagarin and Tereshkova. However, European research circles spoke about the demise of a number of women in the period that followed Gagarin and that preceded Tereshkova. According to Italian sources, the first voyage by a woman to space wasn’t in 1963 but was in 1961, 23 days only after Gagarin’s voyage. It didn’t succeed and the woman met her end. According to the same sources, a woman’s voice was picked up screaming in space at the time. From what was picked, she said: “Will the transportation take place … I feel the heat … The conditions are worsening, Why don’t you reply … There is fire in the place … I won’t return."
Reaching current space safety levels for astronauts has been a long and arduous journey. The percentage of those succeeding in joining the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) doesn’t exceed one in a thousand. In NASA, astronauts aren’t employed every year and the number of all astronauts who did travel doesn’t exceed 60 astronauts in total. In 2017, those selected to be astronauts were 12 persons from 18,000 who went through training in the agency.
At first dogs were sent, and then monkeys, followed by a number of animals and plant seeds. The famous dog Laika was supposedly the first animal to go to space. But several dogs died before Laika went to space. Even Laika, which Moscow had said died some days after being launched into space, was revealed in 2002 to have died hours after launch.
From dogs to humans, an enormous development took place in rocket technology. Then in unmanned spacecraft. And then manned spacecraft. Today, what has been achieved is beyond imagination. China has reached the dark side of the moon. Russia plans to build a permanent station within the moon’s orbit, and the US is examining the possibility of living on Mars. Today, also, plants grow in space and a Japanese businessman is preparing himself to be the first tourist to have a trip around the moon on board a tourist space craft!
This wouldn’t have become a reality except by determination. Success wouldn’t have materialised unless there was failure, and management of the same. Forging our country’s civilisational project should include failure management side by side by the management of triumphs. Three quarters of strength is the management of weakness.