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Bermuda’s economic Apollo 13

Those of us who remember the Apollo 13 incident, when the seventh launch was made in 1970 by NASA on a mission to the Moon, will recall vividly how a life-threatening situation was saved by making use of the best technical brains on the ground, working closely with three astronauts who were battling fearful odds to keep their craft functioning in order to return to earth.

Although the entire space programme has been beneficial to every day life, an even more important lesson of working together during a crisis, was perhaps the greatest lesson of all coming out of that terrible experience, which tested the skills of everyone connected with the space programme.

One could ask how on earth could that situation be compared with out present economic plight? It would help to understand that when Apollo 13 lifted off from the launch pad, things were functioning as planned.

However while in flight a technical malfunction caused an oxygen tank to explode resulting in damage to vital parts of the space craft. The Commander, Jim Lovell, said it all with the chilling words: “Houston ... we have a problem”.

The world watched with grim anticipation as three astronauts on a crippled space craft struggled to save the remaining sources of power on board as technicians on the ground tried to solve what at first seemed unsolvable. It was only through calm, cool thinking by the commander and the crew, along with outstanding team work on the ground, that Apollo 13 was able to return safely to earth.

The oxygen on that spacecraft was just as important for their survival, as our economy is to our Island. The bottom line is that Bermuda has an economic crisis and without input from our best brains with cooperation from all sectors, finding our way back to a strong financial base will be that much more difficult.

Just as the astronauts had to take drastic measures on their craft to protect remaining oxygen and fuel, Bermuda will need to do the same to regain its footing to rebuild our infrastructure. It will be a major challenge especially when some politicians are reluctant to utter the cry “we have a problem”.

It is no secret that a significant amount of our economic oxygen slipped away during the previous administration, apparently undetected. Unless of course danger signs were ignored.

An action taken by Commander Jim Lovell, shortly after the explosion on board Apollo 13, may have been the key to survival. In the confusion he heard a hissing sound, and quickly realised that vital oxygen was escaping and quickly shut the system down. The rest is history.

Bermuda can pull its economic socks up, but not without working closely to restore a tourist industry that still has promise, and continued efforts to expand international business while keeping a sharp eye on employment for all Bermudians. A Bermudian out of work is not a happy camper.

The post election verbal crossfire fallout which was expected if the former Progressive Labour Party Government was ousted, will present challenges for the new Government, the One Bermuda Alliance, and they know it.

However they too will be watched closely even by their supporters who expect a higher level of transparency and accountability. In other words the OBA can expect the same scrutiny the Opposition PLP encountered from the electorate.

The problems facing Bermuda are many, but they are not unsurmountable. Violent crime and negative attitudes by too many young people, present challenges for the entire Bermudian community, but if we take a page out of the Apollo 13 experience, our chances for success will be far greater. It is an opportunity that should not be missed. Saving Bermuda must be the highest priority.

Apollo 13 crew Fred Haise, Jack Swigert and Jim Lovell aboard the US amphibious assault ship Iwo Jima in April 1970 after their harrowing failed mission to the Moon.

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Published April 16, 2013 at 9:00 am (Updated April 15, 2013 at 8:10 pm)

Bermuda’s economic Apollo 13

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