AIHce 2011 Achieves Lift Off

AIHA and ACGIH kicked off the 2011 American Industrial Hygiene conference and exposition here today at the Oregon Convention Center with an opening general session featuring former NASA flight control director and Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient Gene Kranz.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Making good on their implicit promise in this year's theme to "Inspire. Integrate. Innovate," AIHA and ACGIH kicked off the 2011 American Industrial Hygiene conference and exposition here today at the Oregon Convention Center with an opening general session featuring former NASA flight control director and Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient Gene Kranz, who attracted a standing-room-only crowd. His keynote address, "Failure Is Not an Option," was a captivating behind-the-scenes recounting of the safe return to Earth of the Apollo 13 mission's three crew members despite harrowing and unlikely odds on April 17, 1970. The address included scenes from the Ron Howard-directed film that starred Ed Harris portraying Kranz.

Fortuitously enough, just hours before Kranz took the stage, NASA was making world news with the 25th and final launch of the space shuttle Endeavour at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla.—an event AIHce organizers could not have planned for, because the Endeavour lift off was originally scheduled for April 29.

Kranz focused his talk on the merits of teamwork, leadership, and trust--especially the latter, which he said was key to the Apollo 13 mission's ultimately happy ending. "Absolute trust—without this trust we never would have made it," he said. And lest anyone question the importance of industrial hygiene to that fateful mission, Kranz described the necessary science involved with saving the lives of the three crew members who, at the time, essentially were spending four days in a meat locker in space. At one juncture, when oxygen was running low and the crew was within 10 hours of being asphyxiated by carbon dioxide poisoning, Kranz and his mission control team invented a procedure involving cardboard and duct tape, which ended up saving the astronaut's lives. It was trust, he said, that allowed him to make the necessary split-second decisions during the mission.

In all, Kranz served as flight director for the 33 missions of Projects Gemini, Apollo, and Skylab and led the flight control team during its first lunar landing. For demonstrating extraordinary courage and heroism, he was co-recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom awarded by President Nixon for the Apollo mission and was designated a Distinguished Member of the Senior Executive Service by President Reagan.

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