Illustrating Apollo

Today i have just done a couple of illustrations for the Guidebook on ‘Apollo: Leadership Reflections at 50’. The first is the Saturn V on the launch pad.

The second, an iconic one of Neil Armstrong on the moon (with Buzz Aldrin and the Eagle Lander, reflected in his visor).

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The Future of Work: Belief and Currency

Many Organisations are actively engaged in exploring the Future of Work: their drivers include a desire to optimise their physical footprint (and save costs), engage and retain the best talent, reclaim a lost agility of old (or find a new agility in approach), and to capture a competitive edge in a rapidly evolving context of operation. As markets evolve, so too new markets are emerging: as the Trans-Nationals claim ever broader swathes of the existing market, they do so from a new, online, engaged, and connected territory of data and hyper-globalism.

Into the Social Age

Older Organisations struggle for two broad reasons. Firstly, they adapt badly within a known space, often with great pain and exhaustion, but even when they do adapt, it’s within an old paradigm, so their end state is equally maladapted, even if different. And secondly, they frame that adaptation is physical and contractual, when in reality is a is shift in the nature of knowledge and engagement, so they end up with a rebalanced physical and hierarchical structure, but still cannot access the social connection and engagement that they need and desire.

Probably there are two central tenets to understand this: firstly, the ‘Organisation as belief system’, and, secondly, ‘The multi currency Organisation’.

Let’s start with the Organisation as a belief system, and to do that, we need the foundation of understanding the tension of the formal and social structures. Within the paradigm of the Social Age, we learn to operate within the Dynamic Tension between formal and social systems, but with a recognition that we need both to thrive: the formal system is that which is owned and controlled by the Organisation, and the social one is that which flows through and around it, a radically complex network of trust, pride, aspiration, etc, structured within social, tribal, units.

Everything that you can see, that you own, or control, sits within the formal system: the buildings, the laptops, factories, lorries, employment contracts, organisational structure diagram, and coffee machine. You own this: you can do what you like with it. The social system splits into the ‘tribal’, and ‘meta-tribal’, reflecting that our engagement appears to exist on two levels: immediate and trusted (tribal), and negotiated and convenient (meta-tribal). We join a ‘tribe’, but we work alongside people in other tribes too, many of whom we like and respect, but are not necessarily so strongly connected to.

Tribes

Not that this, above, is still something of an abstraction (e.g. it’s probably wrong), but i feel it’s a useful abstraction to understand that engagement is both complex, and multi-levelled (of which i am confident).

Having set up our understanding of these two structures, we can more easily visualise the Dynamic Tension: because you own, and can see, the formal structure, you can do whatever you like to it, but the ‘soul’ of the Organisation (certainly engagement, belonging, community, and probably innovation and ability to change) sits within the Social one. And even if you can visualise part of it, engage with part of it, you do not own it. Our engagement with the Social Organisation will always be negotiated and consensual, and to understand it fully is to understand gradients of power, and tribal structure, which i won’t go deeply into here, but which i have written about widely elsewhere.

One consequence (or possibly driver) of this understanding, is to realise that we are ‘engaged’ to the Organisation in two ways: one is contractual, and the other is belief. You have a legal contract that stipulates the limits of your power and reach within the formal structure, and you have a tribal network and broader network of connections that determine the reach and power of your effect and influence. If asked which of those networks you ‘belong’ to, it’s probably the social one.

The consequences of this are broad, and speak precisely to why change as a formal approach is so limited, and why understanding change as a social movement can be so valuable.

An Organisation exists as a legal footprint in the formal structure, and as a belief system in the social one. Think back to your University, or school: your memories of it, the idea of it that you hold in your head, will sit alongside your understanding of it’s current state, providing your comprehensive understanding of ‘what that thing is’. Your memories of lecture halls, hangovers, trees, and beers will all contribute to that. It’s unlikely that your memory will simply consist of physical descriptors: the lecture hall was eighteen by fourteen point six metres. More likely, your memories will be ‘happy’, rose tinted, or tied up with the people you were there with.

If we subscribe to the notion that our understanding of a ‘thing’ is inherently tied up with stories, memories, people, then we can start to understand the Organisation as a belief system: we ‘believe’ that it is good, that is will protect us, that it is loyal to us. We believe in purpose and intent. We ‘believe’ in the current state, and mission. But change challenges all of this: when Organisations change the formal structure, they tear at the heart of the social one: they fragment tribes, and try to claim the narrative. They write new doctrine and create change stories. Hence they attack established systems of belief and, predictably, are rejected for such action: not necessarily with opposition and hostility, but rather through passivity and casual indifference.

In the context of the future of work, we need to understand the Organisation as belief system, to understand exactly what it is that people are joining, and probably more importantly, what we need them to join, and how.

Our older, domain based Organisations, are used to this question, and they have an answer: they want you to join contractually, between the hours of 9-5, and to leave all your emotional baggage at the door. Moreover, anything you create of value, within those hours, they expect you to give to them. This includes your engagement, trust, and belief. But in the context of the Social Age, this is far from a given. And cannot be demanded. You can be employed, but not engaged. Your ‘belief’ can exist within a notion of the Organisation held by your local tribe, entirely divorced from, or even in opposition to, some streamlined and future state defined by the Change Group.

Social Leadership - Reward

The notion of the ‘Multi Currency Organisation’ builds upon this, and goes broadly thusly: domain Organisations are built upon a premise of time, money, and utility, but a Socially Dynamic one will have all this, but also engagement, trust, and a deep seated ability to change.

Our organisations today are relatively modern constructs, and represent collectivism (of people with diverse skills), to do known jobs in known ways: as such, their core capabilities are ones of consistency, conformity, replicability, to scale. With great effort, they can also innovate and change, but it tends to be hard, because the mindsets of risk, conformity, and control, detest ambiguity, and change.

Within this domain structure, we give our time, we bring our utility, we are paid in money, and we do the things we are employed to do. That is the single currency Organisation, and represents our core model of productivity today.

But much of what our Organisations want from us today, and as they envisage the ‘future of work’, is engagement. And engagement is traded in different currencies, not simply the currency of money. How much, precisely, is an open question, but one result from my own research stands out: in the Landscape of Trust research, people differentiated between engagement that delivered direct financial gain to the Organisation, and engagement that help others to succeed, that made the culture better.

When individual engagement directly was seen to generate more revenue for the Organisation, over fifty percent of people wanted more money as a result. But when individual engagement helped others, and improved culture, only seven percent wanted more money. Alongside this, i asked what people wanted, if they did not want money, and the largest response was ‘freedom’. Fifty four percent of people wanted that: and with that freedom they said that they would help others to succeed, that they would share, that they would experiment. Typically the very things that Organisations envisage in their future ways of working.

These things are traded in different currencies: pride, trust, empathy, and so on. How many different currencies, i do not know, but one thing is clear, and worth remembering: when we trade in money, we own the ‘central bank’. Organisations can decide who gets paid how much, they own the bank, and divide the currency. But they do not own the central bank of trust, of pride, of fairness etc. They can trade in these currencies, but they do not own them.

So the multi currency Organisation still inhabits a formal space, trading money for known utility and time, but it also inhabits the social space, the belief system, trading in fairness, trust, gratitude, empathy, and does so by spending new currencies that it must first earn.

For these reasons, i thin that a discussion about the ‘Future of Work’, and our ways of working, must account for, or be viewed through, those dual lenses: the Organisation as belief system (at the intersection of formal and social spaces, at the Dynamic Tension), and a a multi currency entity.

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Leadership Reflections from Apollo at 50: Introduction

Fifty years ago, the Apollo programme put a man on the moon. Alongside the Manhattan Project, which had delivered the atomic bomb, it was probably the most complex and ambitious mobilisation of state and science the world has ever seen. It was a vast overreach of effort: to achieve the aspiration required the invention, and mastery, of new technologies, alongside the systems of scheduling and control to use them. From project management, to computer simulation, new disciplines emerged, and all of which in remarkably short order.

A New Lens

Apollo famously gave us velcro, as well as the pen that can write in zero gravity, but much more too: it provides insight into humility and failure, the limits of political power, and exactly what we mean by ‘the right stuff’. Apollo is a story told on many levels: on the one hand, the story of a nation, and an extension of the geopolitical struggle that nearly rained atomic fire on the world, on the other, a very human story of complexity, risk, bravery, and determination, tragedy, alcoholism, and loss.

It’s a timely moment to revisit Apollo, as, after a fifty year hiatus of real purpose, we are at the start of a new chapter, heralded by an evolved relationship between state actors, and the emergent Trans-Nationals, which is slashing the costs of launch, and delivering on what was the hollow promise of legacy and reusability. The Moon, Mars, and beyond, all feel slightly more within our reach.

Apollo Lander

The foundations of Apollo were in the literature: the dreamers, philosophers, and pioneering science fiction writers, who coalesced into the various rocketry societies, but it was the two World Wars that lit the fuse. Rocketry was not specifically outlawed in Germany as part of the armistice in 1918 (whilst general weapon development was), largely because nobody could see the link, the risk was an ‘unknown unknown’. The interwar years therefore created a space for curiosity, in a time of ambiguity, two factors that may provide the solution to much of the innovation crisis felt in established Organisations today: it is the control over curiosity, and almost pathological fear of curiosity that kills a learning culture, and leads directly to failure.

Of course, the Second World War provided a stimulus to deploy, and Von Braun’s rockets did just that, hefting high explosives onto London, but even as the first V2 rockets took off, Von Braun saw it as not the end of a war, but the first step on the journey to the stars.

The end of the war saw the wholesale pillaging of technology, and intact teams: with both Russia and the US racing for supremacy, and the Apollo programme included at heart the full intact German military cadre, and even some hardware.

If Apollo was anything, it was incremental: each successive launch mastering one new element, in a complex interplay of technology, and a complex power struggle against Russia, giving the whole thing a rather unusual dynamic, that it was perfectly possible to be technologically superior, but still to lose control of the narrative, by simply being a few weeks too late. Sputnik, the first satellite, that Russia lofted into orbit and that pinged it’s story of threat and fear into the heart of the US demonstrated that with dynamic effect. Suddenly, distance collapsed.

The Saturn V rockets that delivered Apollo remain to this day about the most complex machines built by humans. And staggeringly powerful: the first minutes of launch deposited the power of a nation through five thrusters.

It’s easy to become lost in the hyperbole, but at heart, Apollo was a human venture: the three astronauts who died consumed by fire on the launchpad in Apollo 1 died because of stupidity and arrogance, much like the Challenger astronauts did decades later. Technology cannot compete with the arrogance of control systems.

Every meta-narrative of Apollo can be broken down into micro ones: the ways that every component works together, the ways that problems were solved, the insights and revelations felt by the men who walked in space and on the surface of the Moon. I do believe that, in it’s soul, the story of Apollo is one of fragility and humanity, and hence one that we can learn from, if not directly, then through reflection.

I’ve wanted to write about Apollo for some time, and as i filled a whole shelf in my library with various biographies, technical publications, and pulp fictions, about the programme, i became simply more daunted by the idea. The driving idea for me is that we can use a reflection upon the Apollo programme as the foundation of a broad reflection on leadership today: it can form one of the ‘lenses’ that i have talked about before, different ways of looking at the world. But it comes with the risk of being rubbish: the last thing i wanted to do was to draw crass lessons of leadership and bravery from Armstrong, Collins, and Aldrin, as they navigated the vacuum.

Instead, i have taken a rather selfish approach: at heart, the appeal for me is in the really rather fascinating details of the technology and programme: understanding the sequence and progression of development, learning something of the complexity and genius of the engineering, hearing some of the very human fallibilities and failings along the way, and just enjoying the sheer magnitude and majesty of what may be the greatest adventure story ever told.

I’m sharing this in the format of one of my Social AgeGuidebooks’, which all work to a common format: they share what i hope is some interesting research and content, but also include sections that are my own attempt to draw out the meaning. In this case, i’ve written my own ‘Leadership Reflections’ against each area. Mine may not be the same as yours, which is fine: they are shared simply as part of my own reflective journey.

I’ve shared the first two parts already, and in total there will probably be six or eight sections: i aim to have it online as a free Guidebook by the end of July.

If you enjoy, or find value in, my work, please consider sharing it, or introducing someone else: it’s the strength of my community that carries my work forward, and gives me the connection, and momentum, to build this movement around the Social Age. Thank you, Julian

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Leadership Reflections from Apollo at 50: Part 2 – Storytelling

Oh my God, look at that picture over there”, called out Bill Anders, crew member of Apollo 8. “What is is?” Asked Frank Borman, the mission Commander. “The earth coming up. Wow, is that pretty.”[1]

Apollo was distinguished from earlier forms of exploration by the depth, synchronicity, and range, of it’s documentation: live TV streaming the key moments of the voyage, a full range of both colour, and black & white photography, shaky home movies shot from the surface of the moon. Apollo had it all. You can read the full mission radio transcripts, if you have the time, or listen to the audio to get close the original conversations (and tensions). There’s even a contemporary Twitter account ‘live’ recasting the Apollo 11 mission word for word for the 50th anniversary too.

As a storytelling activity, Apollo works on many levels: it’s a story of national struggle and pride, the story of communism versus capitalism, the story of Kennedy, the playboy prince, versus the evil empire (with the fear generated by Sputnik as it’s genesis). It’s a story of technology over nature, a story about conquest and exploration, a narrative about progress and the triumph of the 20th century.

At a different level, it’s a story about the ‘little guy’, the 400,000 men and women who worked on individual rivets, pipes, stitches, fluids, calculations, and gambles, that carried three men to the moon. That story is one of individual connection: the interconnectivity of the system, the way that everyone can see how their smallest of cogs drives the largest of machines: that story is also one of subservience and obedience, blind faith, and fervour.

At the most human level, it’s a blue eyed myth of three American boys, back from the war, off to space: their steely strength, and stoical bravery, their occasional sacrifice. It’s a story for everyone, as long as everyone is white, middle aged, and male [2].

There was a parallel narrative about racial inequality and the colour blindness of the whole programme, but at least at the start, there was very little conversation about an African American astronaut. The White House was aware that the story of a black astronaut would be a big political win, and did put some pressure on NASA, even ensuring that there was a black candidate in the Test Pilot programme [3] (the feedstock for astronaut training, in the early days), but when he washed out, little fuss was made. It would be 1983 before the first African American astronaut went up on the Shuttle, the same year as the first American female one [4].

When we examine the relics of Apollo, there is a clear divide between the epic, and the mundane: photos of the behemoth Saturn V boosters, steaming and venting as they snort and stamp their hooves on the launch pad, the sight of American aluminium and gold foil starlit against the earth, the titanic blank visored astronauts standing legs akimbo on the moon, but also photos of carefully documented chicken curry, condoms for taking a pee, and the graffiti that adorned the interior of the Columbia command module [5]. Some photos have value without context, and others seem desperate to provide context to the everyday banality of bodily functions.

One of the most famous photos is that of the first footprint on the moon, although the reality is a little more prosaic: often assumed to be that first step taken by Armstrong, the photo is actually one of Aldrin’s steps, taken not for the historical record, but rather as a series of photos to document the properties of the lunar soil: they were intended to assist the technicians in establishing future designs for moon boots, vehicles, and even buildings, as well as enabling them to estimate maximum walking and driving speeds [6]. Today, we assign the photo totemic value: it represents the first step, the claim, the planted flag.

To some, Apollo 11 represents the start of the Anthropocene, the ‘Age of Humans’, a description of a new epoch, characterised by the time that the dominant forces at play on the face of the earth are human in origin. In this instance the first step on the moon both polluted, claimed, and changed the eternal [7].

But Apollo 11 was not a story in isolation: the ten years of it’s conception and execution spanned the summer of love, the Vietnam war, and an evolving political context. Since Armstrong first set foot upon the moon, the human population of planet Earth has doubled. War, famine, and strife, seem eternal. And we have retreated from the moon.

The story of Apollo seems more a historical anachronism in some ways, possibly a morality play. Certainly it holds very little of the contemporary in it’s stride: most modern references are along the lines of how much faster/more powerful computing is today, or how wasteful those government programmes of old were.

Hey, don’t take that, it’s not scheduled” said Borman, as Anders lined up to snap the Earth. As with everything on Apollo, the sequence of shots that would be taken, every frame, were planned and documented, and an idle aesthetic of the Earth was not part of the photo plan.

Hand me that roll of colour, quick, would you?”, said Anders, urgently. “You got it? Take several of them” urged Jim Lovell, the third Apollo 8 crew member.

Some stories need to be told, sometimes we have to deviate from a plan, and sometimes you have to go with your heart. Similarly, some stories only find value in hindsight: you cannot plan for future relevance, and you cannot control an evolving narrative.

Leadership Reflections

Stories are contextualised, and re-contextualised, in ways that move beyond our control: even our formal relics of discourse can be judged and reshaped in evolving contexts.

An authenticity of action is the best guarantee of longevity.

Even a seemingly indomitable narrative of power can be usurped by evolving social contexts: the role of women, and African Americans in the space programme provides a clear example.

A story, no matter it’s wealth and might, can be felled by authentic truths.

Stories operate on multiple levels: from the individual up to the Organisational, and national. Each level may hold a different truth, and some may be held in opposition to the others.

Leadership is not simply about telling our own story: it’s about enabling others to shape and share theirs.

Notes

[1] In Chaikin, 1994, p.112

[2] In private tests, women were show to be just as capable as the men, but that was not part of the dominant narrative of the time. Instead, their role was relegated to the now famous ‘calculators’, and seamstresses, who stitched the spacesuits. (Morton, 2019)

[3] In Morton, 2019, p 110

[4] Twenty year after the first Russian cosmonaut had flown.

[5] Apollo 13 is the famous failed mission, where an explosion crippled the Service Module, necessitating using the Lunar Lander as a lifeboat. Before re-entering the earth’s atmosphere, it was necessary to jettison this lifeboat, but clearly not whilst anyone was still on board. One of my favourite Apollo 13 anecdotes concerned one of the astronauts, exhausted and concerned, taping over the ‘jettison’ button for the ‘lifeboat’ with a note along the lines of ‘do not press this button’, concerned that, despite all the technology, training, and knowhow, he would accidentally resort to routine and press it. I’m unable to locate the source of this anecdote at this time, but Lovell and Kluger’s definitive account is a great resource. Columbia’s graffiti discussed in Muir-Harmony (2018)

[6] In Mailer (2009)

[7] Extended debate in Morton, 2019.

Bibliography and further reading

Chaikin, Andrew (1994): A man on the moon: the voyages of the Apollo Astronauts. Penguin, London.

Aldrin, Buzz (2009): ‘Magnificent Desolation: the long journey home from the moon. Bloomsbury, London.

Riles, Christopher, and Dolling, Phil (2009): ‘NASA Mission AS506, Apollo 11, 1969 (including Saturn V, CM-107, SM-107, LM-5), Owners’ Workshop Manual’. Haynes, Somerset.

Woods, David (2016): ‘NASA Saturn V, 1967-1973 (Apollo 4 to Apollo 17 & Skylab), Owner’ Workshop Manual’. Haynes, Somerset.

Morton, Oliver (2019): ‘The Moon’. Profile Books, London.

Lovell, James, and Kluger, Jeffrey (2015): ‘Apollo 13’. Hodder and Stoughton, London.

Mailer, Norman, (2009): ‘Moonfire’. Taschen, Germany.

Muir-Harmony, Teasel and Collins, Michael (2018): ‘A history in 50 objects – Apollo to the moon’. National Geographic, Washington DC.

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Reflections from Apollo at 50: Part 1 – Isolation

Michael Collins, piloting the lunar orbiter Columbia was, for a short time at least, the most isolated human in the universe. He orbited far from the Eagle, the spider like lander which Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were piloting to the surface. Farther still from the earth, to which he remained intermittently connected through a long and fragile chain of communication [1], and the lonely tenure of gravity. Utterly alone, on the dark side of the moon.

Apollo Lander

July 20th, 1969, was the culmination of a journey measured in magnitudes: of money, of complexity, of risk: an archetypal pyramid project, with Armstrong’s small step balanced on the pinnacle, but with over 400,000 others, and decades of innovation, an almost inconceivable mass of experience, standing beneath.

Strange things happen in space: you get very little return for a great deal of effort or, more accurately, it takes a very great deal of energy to direct a very small lander to the Sea of Tranquility. To achieve this effort, Apollo 11 was not one spacecraft, but rather many, stacked one atop the other: an assemblage of technologies, each of which would loft the Eagle one step closer to the magnificent desolation of the moon [2], or drag it one step back, towards the distant Earth.

The ‘First’, ‘Second’, and ‘Third’ stages are the ones most familiar, as they are the ones seen discarded, and falling back to earth, but on top of them sat the ‘Lunar Module’, the ‘Service Module’, and the ‘Command Module’, each, in it’s own right, powered and self contained. And it was not one rocket that blasted off from Cape Canaveral, but many: whilst the whole ‘stack’ is called the Saturn V, there were five ‘F-1’ engines, mechanisms of demonic power, five ‘J-2’ engines, and further, smaller, engines, some of which were designed for multiple use during the flight, right down to the tiny thrusters to control pitch and yaw, or to direct discarded stages away from the main stack. In all, over eighty of them.

This complexity involves a dance, or rather, several dances: the Lunar Module, Command Module, and Service Module, each separating, and re-engaging, multiple times, because the order in which they were stacked was not the order in which they were used: a TETRIS puzzle of incredible complexity, carried out whilst hurtling along at over 11km/second, that’s almost twenty five thousand miles per hour. Which sounds dramatic, until we remember that speed is relative: with both vessels travelling at that speed, the dance appears slow and stately, from the relative position of each observer: a fact that belies the truth that the astronauts still maintain the record for the fastest speed attained by a human.

Only two of the three Apollo astronauts would land on the moon: Collins remained behind in his lonely orbit, piloting the Command Module/Service Module mashup (those two mated modules forming ‘Columbia’), whilst the Eagle, which had flown, protected between the first three stages, and the final two, could depart and start it’s dangerous descent.

The Eagle detached with the push of a button by Collins in the Command Module: a final Earthly act, pitching it to the moon, like the most expensive baseball in history. With that push came a change of perspective: “I think you’ve got a fine looking machine, there, Eagle”, said Collins, as Armstrong jockeyed the lander into a stable position, flying alongside [3], “despite the fact that you’re upside down”. “Somebody’s upside down” retorted Armstrong, revealing a truism of perspective: it’s always measured from our own.

In space, there is no true ‘up’, except that which we choose to adopt, meaning that a spacecraft can make use of all interior surfaces with impudent abandon, or at least it can until the time comes to land, or it gets too near to another source of gravity. When separated though, Eagle and Columbia manoeuvred, and in doing so, gave each other a relative position of upside-down-ness.

It may seem trivial, but relative position is important, something that Oliver Morton [4] explores in his fascinating exposition on the iconic ‘Earthrise’ photo, arguably the most famous (and certainly one of the most significant) photos in history. It’s the one that shows the vibrant ‘blue marble’ rising over that magnificent dereliction. Except that it didn’t used to.

When first presented to the press, it was positioned with the moon’s surface as a wall on the right, and the earth suspended in space on the left (a framing that Morton reminds us was parodied by George Lucas when he had the Death Star drift into view around the planet Yavin nine years later). It was only when it landed on the cover of Time magazine that it took the more familiar Earthrise posture (possibly shadowing the framing used by Kubrick in ‘2001: a space odyssey’, a year earlier). An interesting intertwining of cultural drivers, with cinema both responding to, and shaping, the dominant narrative. We all believe that we stand on top of the earth: none of us ‘feeling’ that we are on the side.

So there stands Collins: orbiting the moon, alone, whilst Armstrong and Aldrin kick up the dust (dust which would permeate every crevice of the Lander with it’s glassy consistency, and gunpowder smell as it reacted with the oxygen inside), at the end of his daisy chain. The most isolated man that there has ever been.

Reflections

The Apollo programme was a statement of national power and pride, but the ultimate expression of it was validated by a single man, thrown from the earth by thunder, hung upon a gossamer thread.

Impact is not always about thunder, but sometimes about fragility.

One lens through which to view this is that of perspective: from the Earth, Collins was almost forgotten, outshone by the men on the moon. For Collins, his ‘world’ shifted to his craft, and his companions on the moon which, by size, dominated his view. Earth evolved to a marble: this is a legacy of Apollo, that our atmosphere is made visible in the vastness of space. It’s fragility exposed.

But sometimes that which is closest dominates our view.

Whilst the Eagle and Columbia moved only a few metres apart, their perspectives flipped, to the point where one was upside down. How often does this happen, even in terrestrial divergence?

It does not take much distance to create an uncrossable divide.

Notes

[1] Collins saw space flight as a ‘long and fragile daisy chain of events’. (Chaikin, 1994, p.189). All the early astronauts were pragmatists, raised through war, the Test Pilot mindset (where death was a frequent flier), and where salvation came through preparedness, detail, and possibly luck. It’s interesting to note that whilst all were defined by technology, some turned to faith and art as a response to what they experienced.

[2] Whilst Armstrong’s ‘One small step’ statement is the one immortalised, as the words to describe the end of a journey, Aldrin’s words, ‘Magnificent desolation’, more accurately describes where that journey took them. (Aldrin, 2009, p.34)

[3] In Chaikin, p.189

[4] Morton’s book provides a delightful perspective from both scientific, and aesthetic, viewpoints, rather rambling from mythology, to gravity, and back again, it’s a really neat reflective addition to the literature. As a side note, i read it as my first book whilst on paternity, so consumed it in two page ‘moments’ snatched alongside my gently snoring, or wildly screaming, son.

Bibliography and further reading

Chaikin, Andrew (1994): ‘A man on the moon: the voyages of the Apollo Astronauts. Penguin, London.

Aldrin, Buzz (2009): ‘Magnificent Desolation: the long journey home from the moon. Bloomsbury, London.

Riles, Christopher, and Dolling, Phil (2009): ‘NASA Mission AS506, Apollo 11, 1969 (including Saturn V, CM-107, SM-107, LM-5), Owners’ Workshop Manual’. Haynes, Somerset.

Woods, David (2016): ‘NASA Saturn V, 1967-1973 (Apollo 4 to Apollo 17 & Skylab), Owner’ Workshop Manual’. Haynes, Somerset.

Morton, Oliver (2019): ‘The Moon’. Profile Books, London.

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Launching ‘The Community Builder Guidebook’

As you may have noticed, i’ve not been writing for the last month, as i’m off on paternity leave, but today i am returning to the keyboard to share my newest Social Age book, ‘The Community Builder Guidebook’. This is the latest in a series of free Guidebooks (‘The Social Learning Guidebook’, ‘The Trust Guidebook’, and coming up in June, ‘The Social Age Guidebook’): all of them are under 10,000 words, with a strongly practical focus, including ‘what you need to know’, and ‘what you need to do about it’.

The Community Builder Guidebook

The Community Builder Guidebook explores nine aspects of community building, both within formal contexts, and fully social ones. The full eBook is available as a free download, or as a paid version in paperback on Amazon, globally.

These Social Age Guidebooks draw together my research, work, and practical development approaches, to share my latest work and thinking, but they are not complete, nor perfect: they represent an evolving body of work, and will iterate rapidly as i experiment and explore further.

Please download it, or share it, if you know anyone else who would be interested.

For now, it’s back to the family for me: i’m relishing these few months with no travel, and nothing to focus on except for my new family. But i hope you enjoy this new work, and most of all, i hope you find value in it.

You can download the Community Builder Guidebook for free, here.

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My Son

I write this with my son in my arms: just a few days old, pressed to my chest, a new life, carried into this world by his incredible mother, and through the expertise, dedication, and kindness of our midwives and consultant. He is perfect, helpless, and i am utterly in love.

It has been a steep learning curve: before he was born, i found myself in the strange situation of feeling generally ‘ready’, without any actual specific knowledge or capability. I was ready ‘in principle’, but am now immersed in the practice.

Alongside learning about diapers, wind, and how to survive without sleep, i’m learning about his smiles, chirps, and the way i get lost in his eyes for hours upon end.

Also: how to type with one hand as he is cradled in my arms, playing with my beard as he snuffles in his sleep, his breathing synchronised with mine, and just the occasional snort to indicate that my tranquil time may soon be disrupted by the eternal quest for food.

I’ve never been around babies much before: the odd cuddle with nieces and nephews, and the children of dear friends. But i’ve never had this responsibility before. A new life, totally dependent upon us.

It has been the strangest thing: in utero, we ascribed an identity and personality to this dream, and now he has become a person. A small one, admittedly, but a real one, who threatens to turn out even more stubborn than me.

The worries that i carried into birth were, i guess, common ones, ranging from hoping he was healthy, to worrying about whether i could ‘do it’, as if something would flip like a switch when he arrived. As if the starting gun would fire, my old life would fall away, and a new one start.

Except strangely it has not been like that: my old life is still here, but there is a new one within it. In some ways, the last week has felt entirely normal. With more pooh, i will admit.

As a father, one feels a certain pressure to ‘fall in love at first sight’: people say this, that you will look at your new baby, and be instantly smitten, but i would not describe it like that. In the first instance, as he was born, i knew that i was expected to catch him. Before the event, i held crazy concerns: how would i feel about any blood, how would i feel if he was not ‘clean’. Would i know what to do, would i even know how to hold a slippery baby? But come the time, there was no thinking: my hands simply reached out and caught him.

In that moment, i could not describe ‘feeling’ at all. It was almost as though something deeper was acting, indeed, much of our time together feels like that: i do not ‘think’ about whether to comfort him, to clean him, to talk to him. It’s just how things are. It has taken me time to know him though: to learn how to stroke his cheek, to cradle his foot in my hand, to pull him close. To come to know him as a person, not the idea of a person.

There is a deep comfort in this new life: a sense not of maturity, but of completeness.

His face, as i look at him, prototypes the expressions that will create his emotional world, but for now, they simply create a pastiche of feelings, tumbled one upon the other: fear, anger, comfort, exhaustion, love. He has the grammar but, as yet, no verse.

I hope he will grow to be kind and compassionate, but most of all, i hope he changes the lives of those that he touches, and is changed by them too. I hope that he is a fearsome defender of others. I hope that, through his mistakes, he will always grow. I hope, as i think it natural, that he will be a better man than me.

I had to wait a week before i could write this, simply overwhelmed by it all. But now i feel i must write it, as it’s through this story that i can find my new self: partner, father, family. He is my son, and i love him absolutely.

This story is written with deepest gratitude, respect, and thanks, to our incredible National Health Service, and especially for Abi, Amy, and Suen, who guided him into our lives.

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