Failure Is Not an Option
Failure Is Not an Option is a presentation on the History Channel documenting the United States' space program with insights from the flight engineers, project managers, flight controllers, astronauts, and others involved inside the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Speakers include Chris Kraft, Gene Kranz, Jim Lovell, Jerry Bostick, Ed Fendell, Gene Cernan, John Llewellen, John Aaron, Glynn Lunney, Wally Schirra, and Gerry Griffin. It takes the viewer from the Launch of Sputnik through the moon missions. It was produced in 2003.
Failure Is Not An Option is also the title of an autobiographical book written by Gene Kranz and, although he is often attributed with having spoken those words during the Apollo 13 mission, he did not. As to the origin of the phrase, the following story was given, citing an email by Apollo 13 FDO Flight Controller Jerry Bostick:
"As far as the expression 'Failure is not an option', you are correct that Kranz never used that term. In preparation for the movie, the script writers, Al Reinart and Bill Broyles, came down to Clear Lake to interview me on "What are the people in Mission Control really like?" One of their questions was "Weren't there times when everybody, or at least a few people, just panicked?" My answer was "No, when bad things happened, we just calmly laid out all the options, and failure was not one of them. We never panicked, and we never gave up on finding a solution." I immediately sensed that Bill Broyles wanted to leave and assumed that he was bored with the interview. Only months later did I learn that when they got in their car to leave, he started screaming, "That's it! That's the tag line for the whole movie, Failure is not an option. Now we just have to figure out who to have say it." Of course, they gave it to the Kranz character, and the rest is history."
Kranz chose it as the title of his 2000 autobiography because he liked the way the line reflected the attitude of mission control. In the book, he states, "a creed that we [NASA's Mission Control Center] all lived by: 'Failure is not an option'", though the book does not indicate that the phrase is apocryphal.
In 1989, six years before the Apollo 13 movie (which had introduced and popularized the phrase) during a roundtable discussion commemorating the 20th anniversary of Apollo 11, six key leaders gathered and expressed unanimous agreement that the exact opposite attitude was a main reason behind the success of the Apollo Program: 
John Logsdon (moderator): Dr Gilruth, by this time were you beginning to be convinced that this was going to work? I say that a little facetiously, but...
Bob Gilruth: I was always a great worrier.
George Mueller: We all were.
Bob Gilruth: I felt it was much better to be a big worrier than a person that wasn't and have the trouble. And of course a person that either worries or he doesn't. Some people don't worry about things. I happen to be one that worries, very very much, especially on things like flying men to the Moon, I tell you. We had a lot of worriers in there and most of them hid it quite well. And I hid it pretty well too, except when I'd be all alone with some close friends.
Bill Tindall: The kind of work I was doing, they called me a professional pessimist.
Owen Morris: Yes, right.
Chris Kraft: You know, That's another profound thing in my opinion. I think the thing that we learned on and the thing that made us strong was that we knew about failure. We recognized failure, we knew it was there, we always looked for it.
Owen Morris: That's right.
Chris Kraft: And everything we did was based on decisions on failure (OM?: right) rather than success. (OM?: right) And if you want my opinion, that's what happened to NASA in the Challenger accident. Their decisions were based on success, and the people sitting right here's decisions were based on failure. And that may sound crazy as hell, but I believe that's the way we did it.
Owen Morris: That's what we spent our time on.
Unknown 1: That's right.
Unknown 2: Right.
Unknown 3: Right.
Unknown 4: Yeah.
John Logsdon: And the attitude clearly is very different today.
Chris Kraft: Yes.
Tindall followed this point by asserting that a person with the exact opposite attitude, one who would hide a problem "...was the worst kind of person you could have around - absolutely the worst."
(Chris Kraft was NASA's first Flight Director, and Kranz had trained under him as Kraft's assistant. Houston's Mission Control Complex (MCC) building would later be named in honor of Kraft.)
- "ORIGIN OF APOLLO 13 QUOTE:"FAILURE IS NOT AN OPTION."". SpaceActs.com. Retrieved October 23, 2009.
- Stephen Cass (2005). "Apollo 13, We Have a Solution". Part II: Page 3. IEEE Spectrum magazine. Retrieved October 20, 2007.
- "Managing the Moon Program: Lessons Learned From Project Apollo". Video cue point: 8min, 24sec. NASA. July 21, 1989. Retrieved December 1, 2013.
- "Managing the Moon Program: Lessons Learned From Project Apollo (Proceedings of an Oral History Workshop)". PDF Page 34 of 57. NASA (July 1999). July 21, 1989. Retrieved December 1, 2013.
- The History Channel, 2003
- Kranz, Gene, Failure Is Not An Option, Berkley Publishing, 2000, ISBN 0-425-17987-7
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