America’s space programme is very generously funded, so they can afford to take every conceivable precaution. Still, when extraneous considerations come in, like deadlines to be met, beating the Russians, showing to the world how advanced America is, etc., then mistakes do creep in.
The space shuttle was ready to take off, all inspections were complete, everything seemed to be in order and so the blast-off was cleared. As the shuttle soared, the on-board camera showed some protective insulation tiles coming off. Hoping for the best, the mission was not aborted. Everything went off well as long as the shuttle was in space but as it re-entered the earth’s atmosphere, excessive heat generated at the re-entry burned the space shuttle which was minus its protective insulation cover. And, Kalpana Chawla was no more.
Why do we make such expensive mistakes ? A major cause for making mistakes is our lust for fame, for sense enjoyments, when we throw caution to the wind, like drinking excessively, taking drugs, illicit sex, etc., when we are unable to tolerate the forceful urges of our senses. And, when we look for short-term gains, we are not cautious, careful ; we take chances. And, we hope for the best, as the Americans did, whereas discretion demands otherwise.
How then should one avoid making mistakes, especially the expensive ones ? The First requirement is to have a critic always on hand. Surely, critical comments are discouraging but in the presence of a critic one doesn’t get carried away ; one is forced to evaluate properly. Next, one should try to be in good company always. Proper knowledge helps. Intelligence of a high level, i.e. discrimination helps greatly in knowing proper behaviour - according to the time, place and circumstances. Self-respecting people are extra careful ; good “samskaras” help a lot in avoiding mistake making.
Life should be an open book ; as far as possible, we should be accountable to others. We should be strongly focused in life and should set a high standard for ourselves. Praying to avoid mistakes helps, as does feeling the presence of God. Repeatedly doing something helps in avoding mistakes. Emulating great people is useful, as is a strong desire not to make mistakes. In the end, in spite of our best precautions, we shall still make mistakes, since we can never be God – like ; the whole idea is to avoid making mistakes willfully.