During the introductory training that I attended together with the interns during my first week at Kennedy Space Center (KSC), we got to meet Director Robert Cabana. The behavior of the introductory training organizers before Cabana even came into the room made it perfectly clear for us all that this was a big thing. They started moving people around to avoid empty seats in the front of the room, and reminded us several times to silence our mobile phones. When Cabana finally entered the room he was presented as an officer in the U.S. Marine Corps, a naval test pilot with over 7,000 flight hours, and a NASA astronaut with four space shuttle missions serving as pilot and commander. He gave a very interesting presentation on the visions of NASA and KSC, and how their organization and activities on center has changed during the last decade.
When I was sitting there, listening and at the same time watching people around me and their facial expressions during Cabana´s talk, I couldn´t help wondering if something like that would ever take place if it was a Swedish workplace – an auditorium full of interns and long-term employees that listens with undivided attention to the bosses presentation and looks at him with unmistakable respect and admiration. A boss with hero status. How could we imagine a similar scenario in the academic environment? Would that be a head of department, dean, or vice-chancellor with numerous prestigious grants and awards, and four times published in Science or Nature?
I don´t know, but my guess would be – no. I can´t see any scenario in which a room full of Swedish students, university researchers and other staff would give their boss that kind of undivided attention, admiration and awe. To greet him/her as a hero. Not even if it was Christer Fuglesang.
The photo shows Kennedy Space Center Director Robert Cabana (right) with John Glenn (left) inside the flight deck of space shuttle Discovery in the Kennedy Space Center’s Orbiter Processing Facility-1. Glenn flew on Discovery as a mission specialist in 1998 and Cabana served as pilot for Discovery during a mission in 1990 and another in 1992. Image Credit: NASA