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Is Your Team Committed?

Published: Jun 1st, 2023 05:07 pmBy Nirmal Kumar

Sometimes, in critical projects, when there is an emergency, the savior could be a totally unlikely team member!

The Launch

It was 18 July 1980. The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) was preparing for the second time to launch its Satellite Launch Vehicle (SLV) into space from Sriharikota (SHAR).

The first launch about a year ago had been a failure. The SLV had then spun out of control and landed into the Indian Ocean. The failure of the first attempt haunted the mission team.

Some citizens had uncharitably christened the SLV as a Sea Loving Vehicle. The ISRO team was determined not to allow this second attempt to fail!

The Umbilical Cords

The rocket is launched from next to a 60 feet high tower. It is held in place by two cables called as the umbilical cords. One cable would be automatically removed during the take-off. But the other, the heavier one, needed to be electronically released by a remote switch, just before lift-off.

Just a few minutes before the launch, the mission team member responsible for the electronic removal of the cable flipped the switch. Nothing happened. The cord remained in place. The team realized that the entire mission was at risk. They called a hold!

There was nail-biting suspense. Everybody racked their brains to find a solution. But none had a clue as to how this unexpected snag could be handled. The team was on tenterhooks.

The Unlikely Hero

One technician called Bapiah volunteered to climb the tower and manually remove the cable holding the rocket in place. The SLV was fully armed and it was dangerous to allow anyone to go close to it. The team was in a dilemma: would it work or were they putting Bapiah’s life in danger? But they had no other options.

With the security team looking the other way, Bapiah rushed to the tower and climbed to where the cable was. With great effort he kicked at the cable, trying to get it off. He was successful. The mission was back on course!1

Success and Recognition

That day history was created with the launch of the SLV. It was the first success for the ISRO. With that launch, India stepped into the space era. It was now among just a handful of nations that had the capability to place satellites in orbit!

This success was heralded and acknowledged globally. However, very few know about the real savior, the unacknowledged hero, Bapiah!

The Power of Commitment

When a team is totally committed to its objective, every team member becomes capable of heroic deeds. The criticality of the objective infuses unbridled energy in every one to ensure success!

Is your team committed? Does it have a Bapiah?

ISRO – A Personal History by R. Aravamudan with Gita Aravamudan

Image Credits- Bill Jensen on Unsplash

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