Resilient Systems Are Key To Virgin Galactic’s Success

Conscious Thinking and Resilient Systems Design Is At The Heart Richard Branson’s Ventures In Space

This month,  Virgin Galactic made the reality of civilian travel in outer space closer to attainment with the successful launch of its first rocket-powered test flight SpaceShipTwo. The craft, partially owned by Virgin group and the Abu Dhabi-based investment group PJS, launched from Virgin’s Mojave Air and Spaceport in California, where carrier-craft WhiteKnightTwo ferried it to a 47,000 foot altitude after which its own rockets kicked in for a supersonic flight.

The solo run lasted just slightly over 45 minutes, during which the SS2 notched an altitude of 55,000 feet before returning safely back to its desert port. In its first two years of operation, Virgin Galactic plans to take 570 people into space, which will exceed the government number of astronauts (528) who’ve cleared our atmosphere since space travel began in 1961.

No one could doubt that Virgin Galactic is a unique clean-tech project aiming to to make space accessible for people and provide company with the ability to conduct broader scientific research. And while the ideas of galactic travel and the birth of the space tourism industry are exciting, I could not help but to wonder about their environmental impact given the current state of our planet’s ever climate and pollution problems. So I spoke with George Whitesides, the President of Virgin Galactic, on the impact of space travel.

Macala Wright : In the future, we’re going to have make better use of our off planet resources, what is required for success in space?

George Whitesides: One of the most important things is mindfulness; mindfulness is required throughout our enterprise. I’ve always thought going to space will increase our understanding of the Earth’s fragility. When we take people into space I’m hoping they can then see that, and from that picture, they can then figure out how they can act locally to reduce their adverse impact on our planet.

The Definition Of Mindfulness: The first component [of mindfulness] involves the self-regulation of attention so that it is maintained on immediate experience, thereby allowing for increased recognition of mental events in the present moment. The second component involves adopting a particular orientation toward one’s experiences in the present moment, an orientation that is characterized by curiosity, openness, and acceptance. Practicing mindfulness can help people to begin to recognise their habitual patterns of mind, which have developed out of awareness over time and this allows practitioners to respond in new rather than habitual ways to their life – Bishop, Lau

That’s where mindfulness and intentionality come into play, by providing a holistic view of what our actions bring and what they may cause, we can then figure out how to change them to achieve positive versus negative results.

When you book your ticket on Virgin Galactic, you’ll come in four days of preparation and pragmatic training. But I’d hope that those travelling will ask themselves, “What do I want out of my journey to space? How will it change my life?” This is going to be an impactful life experience, so I’d hope they’d think on an how it will change them as a person once they’ve completed it.

Mindfulness also helps us as a company leverage systems thinking and develop resilient processes that help us avoid potential negative repercussions of hastily made decisions. For example, The environment impact of space debris is already affecting our planet, we’re going to have to develop processes that focus on cutting waste and pollution on Earth and in orbit. Under the guise of ‘mindfulness throughout the enterprise’, these are things we’re already discussing.

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