Using Bible Lessons at work on the US Rosetta
may be hard to imagine using Bible lessons in a science
and engineering environment. But there it is. I have
a Ph.D. in Space Plasma Physics, yet some of the most
useful teachings I've used at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory
have been from the Bible: the teachings of Moses,
Elijah, Christ Jesus, St. Paul, and St. John.
Right now I serve as both Project Manager and Project
Scientist on the Rosetta Mission. The Rosetta Mission
is an international mission that is being led by ESA
(the European Space Agency) with NASA participation.
The NASA contribution consists of three instruments
and the support of scientists who work on non-U.S.
The spacecraft will visit a comet in the year 2011,
and 'escort' it to the sun, taking observations the
whole time. The mission is to
- visit a comet up close for the first time;
- learn how it evolves as the tail forms;
- figure out how old it is; and
- study the chemistry that takes place in its environment
for clues about how the sophisticated hydrocarbons,
that are part of earth-based life, may have formed
My job is
- to make sure the instruments that we build are
delivered with a certain quality;
- to manage the support which the Deep Space Network
provides to ESA for navigation of the spacecraft
- to remind NASA why we are doing the job so that
they keep us funded properly.
The job involves vision and leadership. Vision for
the project can involve keeping us out of financial
trouble as circumstances change and our direction
from ESA changes. Leadership means keeping everyone
organized, on schedule, and in sync. The project involves
putting self and national pride aside and letting
another organization, the European Space Agency, make
all the decisions. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory,
where I work, has flown missions for NASA for over
40 years. We have learned a lot about flying missions
in all that time, but we are just passengers on this
mission. Being a good follower requires leadership
skills of its own.
A lesson that has been very helpful to me in performing
this job comes from St. Paul who wrote, "Love
suffereth long, and is kind; love envieth not; love
vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave
itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily
provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity,
but rejoiceth in the truth" (I Cor. 13:4-6).
I read in Henry Drummond's, The Greatest Thing
in the World, that in this text St. Paul is laying
out nine components of Love:
- good temper
- guilelessness, and
These qualities expounded on by Drummond have been
indispensable to me in performing at work on the U.S.
Rosetta Project! Following are some of his ideas and
how I have used them. Let's go over them one by one:
- Patience: Love is not in a hurry. It is
calm, ready to do its work when the right time comes.
It knows that nothing is wrong, but that all will
be provided in time. I think about this when people
get into a panic over the status of funding on the
project, or think that there will not be enough
money to go around. There has never, ever, been
a time when things did not get resolved, even though
it may have seemed to take an agonizingly long time
to get there. Thus Love "suffereth long."
- Kindness: Love is active. Love is always
doing kind things for others. I have often told
various parties on the project that I am a supporter
of everyone. Management classes often teach you
to create "win/win" situations, where
there are no losers. Working out and supporting
solutions of this kind are acts of love.
- Generosity: "Love envieth not"
- such a state involves covetousness, detraction.
Love does not take away from someone else in order
to build you up. In love, there is no competition
with others. Thus a sense of generosity takes away
a feeling of national competition, or any sort of
competition, and provides for genial collaboration.
- Humility: Love silences egotism. It waives
self-satisfaction. Thus, love is not "puffed
up." So when I go to international meetings,
I don't have to vaunt my credentials or status.
I don't even have to say a word. Love does its beautiful
work without trumpets blaring.
- Courtesy: If there is anything appreciated
overseas it is common courtesy. Courtesy is said
to be love in little things, in being polite, and
in being considerate. Thus love cannot "behave
- Unselfishness: I have discovered the importance
of not being intellectually self-centered, or parochial
in this job. This is, in fact, an act of Love -
"Love seeketh not her own."
- Good Temper: Love is not "provoked."
Sullenness at not getting your own way is no part
of love, as defined by St. Paul. A person would
never be provoked into a rage because circumstances
beyond his control resulted in undesired consequences.
We never take offense because a group made a decision
which adversely affected the whole. Love doesn't
"take offense" at all, no matter what
- Guilelessness: It would seem that one way
to impress other's with what a great manager you
are is to be the smartest one in the room. In an
engineering and science environment, cynicism is
the attitude of the smart guy. But St. Paul suggests
that love "thinketh no evil," imputes
no motive, puts the best construction on every action.
"Come on," a manager often says; "you
can't expect me to believe that!" But in an
atmosphere of suspicion and sarcasm, people shrivel
up. A more effective atmosphere for promoting congenial
collaboration and educated fellowship is to "think
evil of no man."
- Sincerity: Love rejoices in the Truth,
in seeing things as they are. Love accepts only
what is real, seeks it, goes after it with a humble
and unbiased attitude, and cherishes whatever is
found to be true. More than that however, in another
direction, "Love rejoiceth not in iniquity."
Love involves a self-restraint that refuses to capitalize
on other's faults and does not take delight in exposing
their weaknesses. This attitude causes a good manager
not to be afraid to expose the truth about an engineering
weakness or a budget weakness, not to cover-up what
others have done, nor punish others for mistakes
that have been made.
These universal truths about living love have helped
me greatly in implementing the collaboration between
the European Space Agency and NASA. The future of
space flight at NASA will likely involve much more
international collaboration. And it is our hope that
the way in which we conduct ourselves on this mission
will provide a good example for future international