5 Project Management Lessons to Learn from NASA’s New Horizons Probe Project

“New Horizons space probe”, “Pluto flyby” are the current buzzword. Tuesday, 14th July, 2015, was that historic moment; where we have proved once again the capability of you and me, us the humans. New Horizons blasted off in January 19 2006, and was the fastest launch recorded, reaching speeds of over 36,000 miles per hour. The spacecraft passed the Moon after just nine hours, around eight times quicker than the Apollo program, and reached Jupiter the following year. After 9.5 years, and traveling more 5 billion kilometers it had reached the orbit of Pluto and even sent back mind boggling images of the youngest planet in our solar system, Pluto.
The New Horizons project is a success. But, that success didn’t come over night. Just like any business projects we carry out in our professional lives, it was a project for NASA. In our business world, we do many projects every year. Some fails, some succeeds and some succeeds beyond expectation. After reading several articles, watching documentaries about New Horizons space probe projects, I personally thing, there’s 5 crucial factors which has lead this project to a successful project. We can surely learn from it and implement in our business projects to make them successful.

Factor # 1 : Team

Without the right team in place, any strategy and plan has the potential of completely falling apart. The New Horizons team comprised of 4 majors teams -Team Leaders, Science Team, Co-Investigators, and Team Leads with defined responsibilities and goal. It is important to assign the right people to each aspect of the project and make sure that they are working well together.

New Horizons Space Probe Project Team

New Horizons Space Probe Project Team

Factor # 2 : Planning

Proper and Detailed planning sets up a project for success from the start. It’s crucial that all the team members are involved in the planning process and always know in which direction the project is going to go. Planning can help the team to meet deadlines and stay organized. For example, New Horizons team planned way ahead in time to ensure that the probe was able to reach Pluto when it’s nearest to us. It’s crucial to remember that Pluto follows a highly elliptical orbit around the Sun. At the closest point of its orbit, called perihelion, Pluto gets to within 4.44 billion km from the Sun. The team planned way ahead in time to ensure that the New Horizons probe reached when Pluto is at the closest point of its orbit. Hence, the probe was able to reach Pluto in quickest time possible at a reliable and realistic time-scale.

Planning_New_Horizons_Probe

Planning New Horizons Probe

Factor # 3 : Foreseeing Risk

During the planning phase, it’s crucial to produce probable list of risks with an action plan for the risks that the project could face. For example, the new Horizons probe is traveling at speed of 84,000 kilometers per hour. Even a small rice grain size space rock can damage the equipment’s on board. The new horizons team were able to take care of this ensuring that the radio antenna was always faced towards the path direction so that if any small objects will hit the large antenna and won’t damage the equipment’s behind it. This gave the team confidence and resulted in success in the project.

New Horizons Risk Amit Biswas

New Horizons Risk Management

Factor # 4 : Improvising

Projects rarely go off exactly as planned. Even after identifying and going through probable risks, teams faces unforeseen risks. It doesn’t mean that that project should be stopped and restarted again. Stopping or restarting a project can be highly costly in terms of money and time. It important to improvise. It’s crucial to openly communicate within the team about it and trying to find a smart solution with least cost and time. Same happened with the New Horizons team. They launched the probe on January 19, 2006. They later realized that they had miscalculated the orbit of Pluto as they didn’t have a lot of information about the planet’s orbit. Later with improvement of technology and in combination with images captured by researchers, the team was able to find the accurate info about the orbit. Hence, they were able to send information to the probe in advance to save the project from total failure.

New_Horizons_Trajectory_Data

New Horizons Space Probe Improvising

Factor # 5 : Project Continuation & Closure

If a project does not have strong closure or succession planning, then it has the potential to continue to consume resources. The project team must be firm and agree that all critical success factors have been met. Some cases, projects turn into actions or evolves into daily routines of the team members. It has to be clearly defined in the project scope, whether the project will end once it has achieved a certain goal or will it continue and evolve to be part of daily work. For example, the New Horizons space probe has received his goal of taking images of Pluto and sending them back. But, it will now continue to go further and explore the universe beyond Pluto till 2030. It’s a classic example of project continuation even after it has completed its main goal.

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10 Must have Smartphone apps for any business professional

“Worldwide Smartphone Users Cross 1.75 Billion Mark” –  eMarketer 

Most of us, who is reading this article right now, own a Smartphone.  Especially, if you are a reader from the Netherlands, where almost 53% + of the population usages Smartphones, then you definitely contributed a lot in reaching the 1 billion mark. I personally own a Smartphone (Android) since 2010. Yes, a bit of late mover, but definitely one of the highest users of Smartphones.  When I say “highest users”, I meant to say, I make the most out of my Smartphone in both personal and professional lives.

It’s not just a phone we are talking about; in fact, we are actually carrying a fully-fledged computer with limitless capabilities. It has helped me to increase my productivity in professional life significantly. It’s not only the phone that matters, moreover, that apps that we can use makes the difference.

Today, I am going to share the apps that I use in my professional life and I believe it will help you irrespective of the industry or function you work in.

DropBox

Dropbox is one of my most favorite app of all time. It is a free service that lets you bring all your photos, docs, and videos anywhere. After you install Dropbox on your computer, any file you save to your Dropbox will automatically save to all your computers, your Android device, and even the Dropbox website! With the Dropbox app, you can take everything that matters to you on the go. Once you have dropbox, it doesn’t even matter if your laptop or PC is broken or got lost. Each and every important file of yours will be saved online. Not only that, you will be able to share Big files with your colleagues without even sending it. It auto-sync itself, so every word you write and everything that you save within the “Dropbox” folder will be most up-to-date.

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Everdroid

Many times, we lose our valuable contacts and data if our phone is stolen or broken. Many times, mobile telecom operators charge huge amount of money to back-up your contacts and data. Once you have downloaded and synced your contacts (For Free), you will be able to access from the web or any computer, access your phone live without having physical access to it. It’s even getting better; for instance, you have a really old model phone, now you want to upgrade to Smartphone without re-entering all the contacts manually. Yes, now you can with Everdroid. It auto syncs all your contacts online. It’s simple, easy and worth downloading.

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Go Email Widget

Are you still worried about missing your important emails? Are you still searching for a simple and useful email app? Now you have GO Email Widget. Once you have it, you can just send/receive emails directly on your screen. Absolutely no need to open any email app!

GO Email Widget supports most of the popular email boxes in the world. It provides you a fast and simple way to configure your account. You can do everything you want just like how you do it in any email app.

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PowerPoint Keynote Remote

PowerPoint Keynote Remote is a free app which allows you to control your PowerPoint presentation with your Smartphone. Many times, we face problems in installing PPT remote without laptops when presenting outside the office or in different meeting room. With PowerPoint Keynote Remote, you don’t have to worry about that anymore. All you have to do is to connect from your phone to your Windows or Mac OS X computer with either Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. Then, you will be able to change slide with a single click, swipe or the volume buttons on the phone. And at the same time get access to a number of features that maximize your ability to deliver the presentation.

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Swype

Gone are the days, when you type. Moreover, it can be a hassle to type in Smartphone for some people as its touch sensitive. With swype you can enter words by sliding a finger or stylus from letter to letter, lifting only between words. It’s faster; it’s smart and it ridiculously accurate. The app itself is always learning new words. So in case you are using modern terminology, all you have to do is to type it once, then afterwards you can swype all the way. So, why Type when you can swype faster.

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Google Translate

In an era of globalization, we have to travel to so many countries for business purposes. Language problem can be a great barrier in the countries where people don’t speak a common language. That’s where Google Translate can come really handy. It translates words and phrases between more than 65 languages. It also translates by speaking the text instead of typing it (17 languages), allows to use camera to take a picture and brush text to translate (available on Android 2.3 and above) and also allows to listen to your translations spoken aloud (40 languages).

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Do it Tomorrow

One of the very important things, I have learned from Dutch/German people, is how to be organized. Trust me, they have perfected this habit. Most of the people here, always carries a notebook to write down when to do what, and one which day.

Well, personally, I am not a big fan of carrying a small notebook around. So, I was looking a smart solution which I can use it in my smartphone. And then I came across. “Do It Tomorrow”. This app simply has two plain text lists of the tasks you need to do today and tomorrow. Can’t finish something today? It’ll automatically be added to tomorrow’s list, ready for you to conquer later. Keeping up with the things you need to do isn’t much harder. Just type in the things you want to do today or tomorrow in the top line on their respective pages. Hit enter to add the task, and you can then immediately start typing in your next task. Each of the tasks looks somewhat like they’re written by hand, with the Vavont font and drawn arrows.

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CamCard

Business cards can be really old fashioned, yet its irreplaceable. I personally have a card holder where I always keep all the business cards from my professional network. But, do I always carry it with me everywhere, I go? NO, I don’t!! So, I ended up looking for a solution and came across this beautiful app called “CamCard”. It scans and adds all the information in my contact list as well as helping me to look up in LinkedIn. I am using it for a long time and trust me, you are going to love it.

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News Republic

Reading news were so much interesting before I found this app. For example, if you are working in Automotive industry or Telecom industry, all you have to do is select the topic and you will get personalized news from that particular industry. It’s visually superb and allows you to view all latest news about your favorite topics around the world. Now you will be able to enjoy complete articles with photos and videos from trusted sources on all the national and international news on: Politics, Elections, Sports, Business, Technology, Apps, Entertainment, People, Tennis, Football, Rugby, Movies, Gossip, TV, Books, Music and etc.

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Whatsapp

You must be wondering, Why am I suggesting Whatsapp for business use? Well, you can’t replace the use of email in business world. But, when it comes to internal communication within your company or team, Whatsapp can be quite effective. You can create your own group containing your team members and just can send a small message for the day to day activity. Also, one on one communication between you and your subordinate/superior can be more efficient, as you might not be in front of laptop to check emails but your phone is always with you to receive the message. So, think about it, it’s time to redesign your communication within your team members.

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Please feel free to suggest the apps you use in your daily professional life, which has done change the way you work and made you more productive. Keep Sharing and Keep Learning.

🙂