Those who dare to achieve greatness

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I have been thinking a lot about hard work and perseverance this week because of (a) the Olympics, and (b) the Mars rover “Curiosity”. In both cases the actors in the dramas have worked for years to arrive at this particular place at this particular time to lay it all on the line while the whole world watched.

They might fail. They might succeed. But they are there because they endured through pain, dedication and sacrifice to reach for the sky.

The athletes have worked on their bodies and their skills virtually every day since childhood, giving up the luxuries of life the rest of us take for granted. They worked through pulled muscles, aches and injuries to practice their sport – over, and over, and over again – until they attained the highest level of achievement their bodies could produce.

The scientists at Jet Propulsion Lab and NASA planned for their moment for eight years. The scheme seemed crazy – six distinct events from orbit to landing had to work perfectly to slow the rover from 13,200 mph to zero in seven minutes. Like retired Marine Major General and current NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said, “That’s like driving 65 mph on the freeway and coming to a complete stop in about 2.1 seconds.”

This was after an eight month journey of 352 million miles. There were half a million lines of computer code running the automatic sequence, in which no errors could be tolerated. The landing site was a huge crater near a massive mountain near the Mars equator. The vehicle landed only 500 meters from its intended target – all done automatically.

The scientists, no less elite than their Olympian counterparts, dedicated a large part of their lives to achieve greatness when their moment arrived. And like a gold medal gymnast, NASA nailed the landing.

Here is the scene during the final landing sequence.

Those who dare to seek greatness – our Olympic athletes and the scientists who executed the Mars landing – are our heroes of the week.

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