The Uplifting Power of Human Interaction
Getting a Man on the Moon
It required 400,000 people to collaborate on NASA’s Apollo 11 mission before Neil Armstrong could make his statement about One small step for man – one giant leap for mankind. Engineers, scientists and technicians worked with systems and subsystems in an effort to accomplish something never done before, sending a man to the moon. It required the collective capacities, knowledge and experience of a large number of people, and perfect coordination among this vast network. NASA’s civil service rolls grew three and a half times between 1960 and 1966, to reach 36,000 people. NASA also decided to rely on outside researchers and technicians. The number of these contract employees increased tenfold between 1960 and 1965, to reach over 370,000 people. These included people from private industries, research institutions, civil service, universities and the military forces. Among these were individualists who had to get accustomed to regimentation. Scientists had to mind the budget and not get carried away by their passion for research. Engineers had to deal with bureaucracy. NASA had the formidable task of melding all the disparate individual and institutional cultures and approaches into a unified organization moving towards a shared goal. The NASA leadership generally viewed the pluralism as a positive force and was able to work out a balance. Not just the work, even communication between the various stakeholders needed perfect coordination. It was the collective technical capability along with the management of complex structures and systems that helped humans reach the moon. NASA Administrator from 1961 to 1968, James E. Webb believed that Apollo 11 was more a management exercise than anything else. Five hundred contractors were working on the small and large aspects of Apollo 11. Five different companies built six individual spacecrafts for the mission, consisting of around five and a half million parts.