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New London, We've Had A Problem

The city's problems and Apollo 13

New London needs to look to the Apollo 13 mission for inspiration.

Forgive me for the example; I’m in the middle of the From the Earth to the Moon miniseries. And yes, a better example would certainly be the awe-inspiring Apollo 11 mission which put Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the Moon, or the other successful ones where astronauts got to play golf or tool around in a dune buggy on the lunar surface.

Maybe next year. The more disastrous Apollo 13 is a better reflection on the state of our city right now.

Even if you’re not interested in the space program or never saw a certain Tom Hanks movie, you probably know the famous line: “Houston, we’ve had a problem.” Apollo 13 suffered an explosion in an oxygen tank, and the three men aboard were now headed toward the Moon in a damaged spacecraft with a depleted air supply. Over the next two days, Mission Control monitored the numerous challenges facing the mission and worked tirelessly toward the goal of bringing the astronauts back to Earth safe and sound.

Here’s an example of an exchange that didn’t occur:

“Houston, we’ve had a problem. We’ve had a main B bus undervolt.”

“Roger, main B undervolt. I believe that was subcontracted out to Beechcraft. We’ll look into that now.”

“Ah, roger Houston. Oxygen levels are oscillating between 20 and 60 percent. We’re trying to—”

“Thirteen, we’ve got Beechcraft on the horn. They’re saying this isn’t on their end and that it’s probably a result of the Teflon insulation.”

“OK Houston, well, we can’t exactly crawl inside the oxygen tank so—”

“OK, DuPont is saying the Teflon couldn’t be the issue here. They say the cup holders are to blame here.”

Dammit Houston.

New London may not be hurtling through space in a ruptured command module, but our budget is going through enough twists and turns to make your head spin. There’s no guarantee that the approved budget will even be the final one given that the budget is , and if it is overturned the City Council will face the daunting challenge of revamping a $42.3 million appropriation when it is already two and a half months into its cycle.

I don’t envy the mayor and the council for the immense tasks that are facing them. I know that they’re sacrificing personal time to look into these matters and try to make the most informed decisions they can. But the focus of their public statements as of late has been more on who’s to blame for New London’s problems. Readers have left plenty of comments targeting the mayor or council, but most have started expressing their frustration over the continuing difficulties in the relationship between the two.

Apollo 13 was the very definition of a crisis, but the astronauts were brought back. Mission Control didn’t do that by pointing fingers during the situation. They did it by rising to the occasion and focusing on the task at hand. Sure, they investigated the incident later. That was the right time to determine what went wrong to make sure it wouldn’t happen again.

Maybe once the audit of the 2012 fiscal year is completed, there will be a better sense of what errors have been made and how the city can better handle its money. The Finance Committee is already looking into the deficit that arose from the 2011 fiscal year. For now, let’s just work on bringing the city home in one piece.

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Paul July 23, 2012 at 12:17 AM
Nice thought....NOT REALISTIC...The phrase is"Houston we have a problem"
Dirk Langeveld July 23, 2012 at 01:50 AM
It's one of those "Play it again, Sam" kind of quotes: http://www.hq.nasa.gov/pao/History/SP-350/ch-13-1.html
Bob Bastek July 23, 2012 at 11:39 AM
This is as good a time as any to say: Thank you for The Patch, Dirk.
Paul July 23, 2012 at 11:51 AM
Sorry Dirk...I was wrong but I "knew" I was right
Lisa Beth July 23, 2012 at 12:02 PM
Thanks for widening the focus on current events. Sometimes it's easy to get caught up in the "Hooray for our side" mentality and that tends to narrow our focus until we may lose sight of the big picture.

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