Space Oddity


by Ilija Lichkovski, United World College Maastricht
October 24th, 2018


In 1998, NASA launched the Mars Climate Orbiter, a spacecraft designed to study the Martian climate and conditions. After a successful launch and upon approaching Mars, the NASA team lost all communication with the spacecraft, leading it to encounter Mars at a different angle than anticipated. This disintegrated and destroyed the Orbiter. Scrambling for answers to the mysterious reason for this, NASA reached a perplexing realization. The mission failed due to one piece of software supplied by a private company using the imperial system, and another piece, supplied by NASA, using the metric system. This unfortunate miscommunication destroyed years of tedious work poured into designing the spacecraft, along with a $300 million price tag.
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As a part of the Student Council, I have been in a position to realize the significance of commited, deliberate and productive communication. After continuously reaping the benefits of effective communication, and coping with the consequences of the opposite, me and my co-representatives have been working on improving our interaction with the student body. Therefore, we have decided to devote this article to highlighting these changes, so that the entire community is on the same page.
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Student input is an essential prerequisite to productive Student Council output. To advance the input-output process, the Student Council resorts to the following structured solutions: open meetings, assemblies and residential meetings, and our newly founded StuCo Times. Firstly, the Student Council weekly meetings on Wednesdays are open to every single student in the community for the first half hour. From 15:30 until 16:00, we can unmistakably be found in our natural habitat, C2.01, for any inquiries or issues that need to be addressed by the whole council. Furthermore, as a more consistent platform of receiving input, Student Council sessions are organized during period 4 every third Monday, during which matters of community-wide importance are addressed. For exclusively residential matters, the Student Council leads residential meetings with a pre-set agenda once per month. Finally, the new addition to our transparency initiative is the astounding, groundbreaking, fabulous StuCo Times. This visual monthly update outlines all the tasks that have been accomplished in the past month, and all the tasks that are currently ongoing. It is sent via email to all DP students, and posted on boards around the school building and the residences. The hope is that students, not only get informed about our activities, but get an opportunity to reach out and become involved into some of our processes.
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Ultimately, along with all the assemblies and meetings and sessions and forms and updates, the Student Council consists of a bunch of warm and loving human beings, ready for productive conversations regarding any matter relevant to StuCo. For any portfolio-specific matters, do not hesitate to approach any member to express your propositions, concerns or ideas. Perhaps some chocolate or tea wouldn’t do much harm either.
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The implications of ineffective communication are embodied with the Mars Climate Orbiter – it has turned into ashes. NASA, with its abundance of resources, capable workers, and state-of-the-art technology, still succumbed to poor communication. As a Student Council, we are keen on learning from NASA’s mistakes and helping to keep our community spacecraft on its right trajectory. During our tenure, we prioritize effective communication with the student body, so that clear, desirable outcomes can be ushered. With our metaphorical spacecraft, all of us are the ground control team that control it and ensure the mission success. Carelessness and sloppiness can bring us down. Effective, open-minded, clear and deliberate communication can take us 
to the stars.

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