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Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Your Marriage and NASA - Part 1

Catchy title, eh?

In 1966, the first fatal accident in the US Space program claimed the lives of Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee, when a ground test of the Apollo 1 spacecraft resulted in a fire that killed all three.

In 1986, the Space Shuttle Challenger was destroyed by an explosion just over a minute after launch, killing all seven crewmembers, including the celebrated "Teacher in Space", Christa MacAuliffe.

And in 2003, damage to the Space Shuttle Columbia, incurred during launch, resulted in its destruction during re-entry to the atmosphere, again killing seven.

All of these accidents were tragic, and all were preventable.

And all have analogues in marriage.

Today we'll look at Apollo 1.

Apollo 1 - A Toxic Environment - after the Gemini program, the design and construction of the Apollo spacecraft was contracted to a different company, one which wanted to be 'original' in its approach. They therefore declined to make use of the lessons learned in the previous programs, Mercury and Gemini.

In engineering, the syndrome is called "not invented here", and it's poisonous.

The professionalism of the individual engineers can;t be faulted, but they were working under the pressure of developing the most complex machine mankind had ever seen - from scratch. And they had to do it to meet JFK's deadline of getting a man to the moon by the end of the 1960s.

To put it bluntly, the contractor cut corners. Changes in the spacecraft were made but not documented - or documented but not made. Wiring was altered, patched, and patched again.

Flammables were introduced into the cabin, and then were ordered removed - but their removal was never recorded.

And the tests were run using a sea-level pressure of pure oxygen. Just about the best environment for a fire.

And when the fire started, there was no escape. The one hatch opened inward, and as the temperature rose, so did the pressure...inside the capsule, holding the hatch shut.

How often do we allow a toxic environment in our marriage?

Marriage is the most intense partnership we'll ever experience, and yet we approach it with a lackadaisical casualness that would be intolerable for a junior-high scrub football game.

We try to slide things from our single life into married life, hoping that instead of embracing the change in our lives, we can hang onto as much as we can of what we had.

We don't document the changes we want to make in our life together.Makes it a lot easier to blame, but a lot harder to actually work together toward a common goal.

We invite division into our houses, in the form of inappropriate movies, corrupting books, and evil Internet browsing. To put it bluntly, the husband who brings pornography into his home is betraying his wife, and causing damage to their relationship - in the expectations and desires formed in his mind - that may never heal.

We hang onto old, destructive relationships. Whether they be family that seek to break down the marriage out of jealousy or pride, or old friends that become possessive when you move out of their orbit, or...worst of all...old flames that have never quite given up, these relationships create an environment that's poisonous to our marriage, by demanding a division of loyalty.

When you're convinced that you owe loyalty to someone besides your spouse, you've struck a spark in an oxygen-rich atmosphere loaded with things that burn.

And what will burn - is you. Along with your spouse.

Marriage is supposed to be a safe place, and we're enjoined to put the happiness - and emotional safety - of our partner first.

The safe, fire-resistant environment is ours to create.

This post is linked to Wedded Wednesday, a compendium of really cool posts on marriage. If you click on the logo below, you'll be taken to www.messymarriage.com, which is the springboard to a wealth of information.


  1. Wow, Andrew! What an interesting way to write a marriage post! I loved it and was glad to learn some astronaut trivia to boot! But it's so true that when we cut corners in life, rocket-making, and relationships, we end up getting burned and potentially destroyed. Great writing and deep wisdom, my friend!

    1. Thanks, Beth - it does seem that we always want to find the easy way, and it's the 'wide road' that leads to destruction.

  2. The title definitely caught my eye! My dad spent his life working as an engineer for NASA so all these analogies have particular interest to me. Not to mention that I was a Space Camp counselor for a while too in my much younger days so I had to know the history so the students wouldn't stump me. :)

    "Marriage is the most intense partnership we'll ever experience, and yet we approach it with a lackadaisical casualness that would be intolerable for a junior-high scrub football game."

    Sad, but true. We mistakenly think marriage should be easy and not require work if we're "in love", but because it's the most important relationship we'll ever have, we need to spend much time and energy in keeping it as healthy as is possible. Thanks for your diligence in keeping us reminded of that. We need it.

    1. What a cool background you have, Lisa!

      You're right that we do tend to think that marriage should be easy - that love conquers all. But it's not that case, and sometimes love, and the other emotions that come with it, can make crafting a life together tougher.

      It takes work, and an intentional attitude to subsume one's own interests and desires to the good of the marriage.

  3. And sometimes it happens innocently ... so unintentionally. Oh Lord, open our eyes to the enemy's intent.