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Expedition Leadership | Leadership Types | Leadership Skills
Leadership in 30 Days | Leadership Profiles

Space Shuttle Columbia Crew

Leadership Positions: NASA Astronauts
NOLS Graduates: 2001 NOLS/NASA Leadership Expedition

Teamwork, also referred to as expedition behavior, is an important component of the NOLS leadership curriculum. When it comes to team building, nothing can bring a group closer together than an expedition into the backcountry. And one organization that knows this better than anyone is NASA.

Since the fall of 1999, NASA has been relying on NOLS to give its astronauts the learning experiences of a lifetime. The goal is to develop leadership skills and teamwork in preparation for missions to space.

In the summer of 2001, the crew of the space shuttle Columbia completed a 12-day, 50-mile expedition in the Wind River Mountains of Wyoming with NOLS Professional Training.

“Being in the wilderness,” says NOLS Professional Training Director John Kanengieter, who led the course with NOLS Instructor Andy Cline, “tends to bring people together. It removes any façade and brings out the real person. In this case, it brought out the best of everyone.”

When the Columbia crew finally lifted off into space, they knew one another well. They had seen each other at trying times, like at the end of the first day of the NOLS course when they veered off route and had to backtrack to find their campsite. They had seen each other tired, sweaty and covered in dirt. But they had also been together for some great memories, like when they decided to take a plunge in a high mountain lake, or when Commander Rick Husband led the crew in a comic rendition of the song “Kumbaya.” These moments, said Rick Husband before the mission, brought the crew together like no other aspect of their NASA training.

In a BBC radio broadcast that aired in January 2004, Columbia crewmember Laurel Clark described the crew’s NOLS experience. “I don’t think any of us had any idea how many similarities there would be to the space flight," Clark said. "We were out in the wilderness for about ten days and we spent a whole lot of time together as a team solving problems without any other outside influences, which is similar to the way that it will be in space.”

“I t was a very positive experience to work together— learning more about each other and our different strengths and weaknesses. It was certainly a great learning opportunity.”

The crew’s leadership skills were put to the test when they had the opportunity to summit 13,192-foot Wind River Peak. Kanengieter remembers the astronauts debated whether or not to attempt the peak ascent.

“They decided if they were going to do it, they were going to do it together,” Kanengieter says. “They decided if they supported each other, they could make it.”

Grad Profiles in Alphabetical Order

Pete Athans
Janice Bloom
David Breashears
Diane Brinkley
Carlos Buhler
Caroline Byrd
Archie Clemins
Columbia Crew
Mike DiDonna
Chris Gergen
John Grunsfeld
Ryan Hughes
Bruce Jacobsen
Sebastian Junger
Tom Kiernan
Alex Matthiessen
Tori McClure
Kitty Phillips
Guy Santiago
Tom Scott
Kat Taylor
Terri Watson
Louisa Willcox

 

Expedition Leadership | Leadership Types | Leadership Skills
Leadership in 30 Days | Leadership Profile

 

 

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