Learning Gratitude from Opportunity
Did you follow the media reports on the completion of the mission of the Mars rover named Opportunity? Opportunity is a golf cart-sized robot that was deployed to Mars in 2004 with a mission to understand Martian geology. NASA scientists and engineers hoped the mission would last for 90 days.
Opportunity blew past that goal and went on working and learning things about Mars for 14 years! The rover’s mission far surpassed its original research goals and opened up whole new areas of exploration and discovery for NASA scientists.
In June of last year a dust storm crippled the solar-powered rover, and last week, after nearly a thousand attempts to reestablish contact, NASA declared the Opportunity mission complete. It was an emotional end to an amazingly long journey—a tremendous engineering and scientific achievement. While much of the reporting was on the accomplishments of the Opportunity rover, my thoughts went immediately to the incredible team of professionals who worked together to make such phenomenal success possible.
There are hundreds of people who have been part of the Mars Rover Program. Some of them started their careers with the program and moved on after a few years. Others came in from other NASA missions. And most remarkably, some were a part of the Opportunity mission for nearly two decades—from the first proposals and concepts right down to the end.
All of those people poured their professional expertise, scientific competence, passion for learning and discovery, and capacity for getting things done into a single mission. Without their sustained, focused attention and involvement, Opportunity would have never made it to Mars in the first place, and certainly wouldn’t have continued working for 14 years! I loved the story—and for good reason.
I know what it is like to be on a team with people who bring extraordinary dedication and focus to their work. I know what it is like to work with individuals who are persistent and 100% committed to a shared task. I know what can happen when a group of people bind their hearts and minds and hands to reaching a goal that might take decades to achieve.
I am surrounded each day by committed people who bring our mission to life in their individual work—and in how we work together as a team. The work we do is up close and personal. Patients trust us with their lives. We recognize the awesome responsibility that comes along with that trust, and it is a great privilege for us to serve our patients and their families. To be a part of an organization of individuals who understand this so clearly is a great blessing to me personally.
We are a team-based organization. When I think of our organization—the volunteers, physicians, nurses, clinicians, community partners, and the whole range of our employees—I am thankful and appreciative for the passion and purpose of our entire team.