With Earth and one of the station's solar arrays as a backdrop, NASA astronaut Clayton Anderson works during the third spacewalk of the mission. Photo Credit: NASA
My Best Mistake: Justin Smith’s “When ‘I Don’t Know’ Is the Right Answer”

When I started working at NASA in 2007, I was on top of the world.

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Astronauts participate in tropical survival training at Albrook Air Force Base near the Panama Canal. From left to right are an unidentified trainer, Neil Armstrong, John H. Glenn, Jr., L. Gordon Cooper, and Pete Conrad. Survival training was, and still is, an important exercise for astronauts, as a launch abort or misguided reentry could potentially land them in a remote wilderness area. Photo Credit: NASA
My Best Mistake: Steve Garber’s “The Value of Humility”

Luckily, it was a lesson learned during an exercise.

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NASA pilot Dave Wright reviews pre-flight checklist prior to take-off. Photo Credit: NASA
My Best Mistake: David Oberhettinger’s “Why I Love Checklists”

So far, my life and career have weathered many mistakes.

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The GALEX spacecraft before its launch in 2003. Photo Credit: NASA/JPL
My Best Mistake: James Fanson’s "Throw a Drowning Man a Life Ring"

I was project manager for GALEX, the Galaxy Evolution Explorer.

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In a Vehicle Assembly Building high bay, an aft center segment of a Solid Rocket Booster is lowered toward a segment already in place. Photo Credit: NASA
My Best Mistake: Weiping Yu’s "To Thine Own Self Be True"

I made my mistake over and over again for many years.

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Space Shuttle Discovery in the Vehicle Assembly Building. On either side of Discovery’s tail and Orbiter Maneuvering System Pods are the Tail Masts that support the fluid, gas and electrical requirements of the orbiter’s liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen aft T-0 umbilicals. Photo Credit: NASA/KSC
My Best Mistake: Eugene Hajdaj’s “What Could Go Wrong?”

At Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Equipment Test Facility, I learned the hard way that supposedly bulletproof designs are not necessarily as trouble-free as they may appear.

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This 1986 artist's concept shows the Orbital Maneuvering Vehicle (OMV) towing a satellite. As envisioned by Marshall Space Flight Center planners, the OMV would be a remotely-controlled free-flying space tug which would place, rendezvous, dock, and retrieve orbital payloads. Image Credit: NASA
My Best Mistake: Bill Gerstenmaier’s “Balancing Budgets and Work”

I’m not sure that the decisions I made as operations manager of the Orbital Maneuvering Vehicle (OMV) program nearly three decades ago were necessarily mistakes, but the problems that ultimately killed the OMV were certainly real.

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Workers at Kennedy Space Center in Florida accompany shuttle Atlantis as it is towed back to its processing hangar after landing at Kennedy's Shuttle Landing Facility, completing its 13-day mission to the International Space Station and the final flight of the Space Shuttle Program. Photo Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls
My Best Mistake: Dan Keenan’s “Where Journeys Begin”

Anyone who has ever had the courage to go out into the world and do something knows there are only two kinds of mistakes: ones we can recover from and ones we cannot recover from.

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