All Good Things



A personal note today. 


After long consideration I have filed my retirement papers and will be leaving NASA and the US Civil Service on July 31.  Let me hasten to add that this is a personal decision based mainly on family considerations – which I needn’t enumerate here today.


Working at NASA has been a lifelong dream; I often tell people that I would have paid them to let me in the door rather than the other way around.  It has been a privilege and an honor to work in this place and with these people.  The achievements that we have made together will have lasting significance for all humankind.  I want to especially thank my many wonderful co-workers who are so dedicated, innovative, and hard working.  I wish them every success in the future with all my heart.


I have a few days left, I may even post another blog or two.  But for today I leave you with a passage that summarizes feelings so similar to my own that it is uncanny.  Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) wrote a wonderful book about his favorite career as a steamboat pilot, “Life on the Mississippi.”  It is enormously funny, but taking a reflective turn this serious passage summarizes – far better than I could – the feelings of any professional at the end of a long and wonderful career.  So make the translation from rockets to steamboats and read all the way to the end.



Chapter 9:


            The face of the water, in time, became a wonderful book – a book that was a dead language to the uneducated passenger, but which told its mind to me without reserve, delivering its most cherished secrets as clearly as if it uttered them with a voice.  And it was not a book to be read once and thrown aside, for it had a new story to tell every day.  Throughout the long twelve hundred miles there was never a page that was void of interest, never one that you could leave unread without loss, never one that you would want to skip, thinking you could find higher enjoyment in some other thing.  There never was so wonderful a book written by man; never one whose interest was so absorbing, so unflagging, so sparklingly renewed with every re-perusal.  The passenger who could not read it was charmed with a peculiar sort of faint dimple on its surface (on the rare occasions when he did not overlook it altogether); but to the pilot that was an italicized passage; indeed, it was more than that, it was a legend of the largest capitals, with a string of shouting exclamation points at the end of it; for it meant that a wreck or a rock was buried there that could tear the life out of the strongest vessel that ever floated.  It is the faintest and simplest expression the water ever makes, and the most hideous to the pilot’s eye.  In truth, the passenger who could not read this book saw nothing but all manner of pretty pictures in it, painted by the sun and shaded by the clouds, whereas to the trained eye these were not pictures at all, but the grimmest and most dead-earnest of reading-matter.

            Now when I had mastered the language of this water and had come to know every trifling feature that bordered the great river as familiarly as I knew the letters of the alphabet, I had made a valuable acquisition.  But I had lost something, too.  I had lost something which could never be restored to me while I lived.  All the grace, the beauty, the poetry had gone out of the majestic river!  I still keep in mind a certain wonderful sunset which I witnessed when steamboating was new to me.  A broad expanse of the river was turned to blood; in the middle distance the red hue brightened into gold, through which a solitary log came floating, black and conspicuous; in one place a long, slanting mark lay sparkling upon the water; in another the surface was broken by boiling, tumbling rings, that were as many-tinted as an opal; where the ruddy flush was faintest, was a smooth spot that was covered with the graceful circles and radiating lines, ever so delicately traced; the shore on our left was densely wooded, and the somber shadow that fell from this forest was broken in one place by a long, ruffled trail that shone like silver; and high above the forest wall a clean-stemmed dead tree waved a single leafy bough that glowed like a flame in the unobstructed  splendor that was flowing from the sun.  There were graceful curves, reflected images, woody heights, soft distances; and over the whole scene, far and near, the dissolving lights drifted steadily, enriching it, every passing moment, with new marvels of coloring.

            I stood like one bewitched.  I drank it in, in a speechless rapture.  The world was new to me, and I had never seen anything like this at home.  But as I have said, a day came when I began to cease from noting the glories and the charms which the moon and the sun and the twilight wrought upon the river’s face; another day came when I ceased altogether to note them.  Then, if that sunset scene had been repeated, I should have looked upon it without rapture, and should have commented upon it, inwardly, after this fashion:  This sun means that we are going to have wind to-morrow; that floating log means that the river is rising, small thanks to it; that slanting mark on the water refers to a bluff reef which is going to kill somebody’s steamboat one of these nights, if it keeps on stretching out like that; those tumbling “boils” show a dissolving bar and a changing channel there; the lines and circles in the slick water over yonder are a warning that that troublesome place is shoaling up dangerously; that silver streak in the shadow of the forest is the “break” from a new snag, and he has located himself in the very best place he could have found to fish for steamboats; that tall dead tree, with the single living branch, is not going to last long, and then how is a body ever going to get through this blind place at night without the friendly old landmark?

            No, the romance and the beauty were all gone from the river.  All the value any feature of it had for me now was the amount of usefulness it could furnish toward compassing the safe piloting of a steamboat.  Since those days, I have pitied doctors from my heart.  What does the lovely flush in a beauty’s cheek mean to a doctor but a “break” that ripples above some deadly disease?  Are not all her visible charms sown thick with what are to him the signs and symbols of hidden decay?  Does he ever see her beauty at all, or doesn’t he simply view her professionally, and comment upon her unwholesome condition all to himself?  And doesn’t he sometimes wonder whether he has gained most or lost most by learning his trade?

43 thoughts on “All Good Things”

  1. Sorry yet glad to hear it (you deserve it). Very much enjoy the blog and the stories – good choice of Twain.
    Think the best thing one can say in praise of a blog is it constantly made me think and sometimes made me smile.

    I hope for your post-NASA world and our current NASA situation that Churchill is right – “Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.

  2. Who will now be our inspiration at NASA?
    Thank you Wayne for all your wonderful writings!
    Enjoy your retirement.

  3. Thank you, sir for your contributions to human spaceflight and for sharing your wisdom with the world here on your blog. I for one will miss your insights, stories, observations, and your wit. One of the highlights I will take away from the STS-129 NASA Tweetup event last November was having a few moments to talk to you and appreciated the time you took to speak to us.

    I hope that at some point in time when the dust settles you would share a book about your experiences, I know I’ll be the first on line at the local bookstore to pick up a copy!

    You have done your part for “king and country” all my best to you and your family! Once more many thanks to you. Enjoy!

  4. Wayne,

    Congratulations on your retirement and I hope this is a minor course change to even more and better things in your future. You many entries in this blog have chronicled your growth from a technical leader and manager into someone who can look deeper into the issues and try to divine the wisdom that lies beneath, even as the riverboat pilot did in Mark Twain’s story.

    But unlike his reflection on this as being the end of the mystery, I hope you will find, as I have, that opening that door to explore those mysteries brings a constant stream of new challenges to tackle. There is so much left to understand.

    I wish you the best of success and growth in whatever you choose to do next with your life, and thank you for the friendship and help you have provided to me.


  5. Mr. Hale, thank you for your service to our nation’s space program. Your contributions have been incredibly impressive and will never be forgotten.

    If you might be so inclined in the future, I feel a book of your time at NASA would be a wonderful project and widely received and appreciated.

    Good Luck in your future endeavors.

  6. Wayne, thank you for the many years of service. I especially enjoyed sitting in the auditorium at the KSC News Center watching and listening through the many press conferences during and including Return To Flight. I never thought I’d wax fondly memories of PAL ramps, foam and ECO sensors. Your candidness and good humor were most welcome during those times. So, once again, thanks. If anything, you’re the last person NASA needs to be leaving the agency. Now go be with your family… it’s their turn!

  7. I would expect that you would choose the title from the final episode of “Star Trek: The Next Generation” to tell us that your time at NASA has come to its end.

    Perhaps a movie or two to follow…?

    Your path and mine became intertwined the day you read my troubleshooting procedure for STS-114’s ECO sensors on NASA TV. I was still spun up from just having arrived home from Clear Air Force Station, and as my wife looked at me I was weeping tears of joy…”hey, if it works, then it was all good”, I said. A few months later, an investigation found that it was the ET’s bulkhead connector’s pins that had been causing the glitch for many years.

    And so, you were moved to enter the blogosphere, and as I’ve previously stated, you quietly pushed the door to the hallowed halls of Mission Control open and motioned for us to come inside…stand quietly along the back wall…and for a moment, be part of the greatest “Endeavour” humankind has ever undertaken.

    And believe me, we all appreciated your perspectives.

    And so, I’ll bid you farewell, Godspeed, and hope that we meet someday with a quote from “All Good Things…”

    “[Q’s last line of the series]
    Q: In any case, I’ll be watching. And if you’re very lucky, I’ll drop by to say hello from time to time. See you… out there!”

    Take my e-mail with you…drop by to say hello from time to time.
    You’ll always be welcome here.

  8. I’m sure you’ll be missed in the space community — but you’ll also REALLY be missed if you stop writing publicly altogether. I have so enjoyed reading your warm, wise, witty perspective, on things I care very much about.
    So: Thank you, for letting me tag along a little bit.
    And: I think you’ve done an enormous service to the cause of space exploration, by putting yourself out there, in a personal way, and trying to explain some things.

  9. “The romance and beauty were all gone from the river…”

    Maybe that’s it Wayne. Maybe it’s time to find us new rivers and discover their secrets.

    It was indeed an honor and priviledge to work for and with you. From my 1st Flight Techniques Panel where myself and a fellow newbie gave comments about the pilot stick time rule (after a whole week on the job no less!!! We were both ripped by Alan Hochstein when we got back to the office!!)Lucky for us, we were supporting you position.. …

    To my 1st flight as a Winds Coordinator where I had no answer to “What do you mean Zaragoza is out of helium?!?!”…..The glory days of post-STS-93 contingency abort analysis when it seemed I was in front of the AEFTP every month (and always going last on the agenda!!!) talking some obscure CA issue.

    Your mastery of the Jedi Mind Trick as applied to the weather office when discussing cloud cover on landing day….”Those aren’t the clouds you’re looking for…..”

    And to what is always my fondest memory of you: whenever there was something that you disagreed with rather strongly, you would stand up, take off your glasses, and use that Star Trek mug as a pointer at the offending individual….

    May the road always rise beneath you…..(I’m sure you know the rest..)

    Fare thee well and Godspeed!


  10. Mr. Hale,

    As a Star Trek fan, I knew what was coming as soon as I saw “All Good Things” pop up in my RSS feed of your blog. And I uttered an involuntary, “Oh, no.”

    I recognized you as an excellent communicator when I first saw you in NASA press conferences. And in the past couple of years, I have looked forward to every blog post. I learned things; I laughed; I viewed things in a new light. Your writings will be greatly missed.

    And I will never forget, “This is the Kaboom case, Flight!”

    I hope you consider writing a book. I would expect it to be as interesting as those from Gene Kranz and Chris Craft.

    NASA must be a tough place for visionaries these days.

    Best of luck in whatever you choose next.

  11. thank you Mr.Hale for you years of service and this wonderful blog. I find value in all of your posts. I’ll miss tis blog and your voice at NASA.

  12. Dear Mr Hale

    You will be missed and I hope you keep blogging in some form. Enjoy your new life (I hate that word “Retire”).

    May all your new “launches” and “landings” be great ones.


  13. Mr Hale,

    Well, I’m sorry to see you go — I think this blog has been the best source of space news and perspectives on the Internet. In fact, it’s one of the reasons that I have decided to major in Aerospace Engineering. I hope you enjoy some well deserved time with your family. Have fun out there, always.

  14. Wayne
    It has been such pleasure to enjoy a career doing that which is all that most of us Blog followers ever wanted (and still want) to do…putting American human beings into space. But the best part of it has been leaders and coworkers such as you. A gift for us all whom have had the distinct privilege to brief to you at an FRR. To status you on an IFA. To recommend a requirement change to resolve that IFA and increase launch probabilities without sacrificing safety or quality. Or to simply stand and brainstorm the cause of the white streaks coming from the BSM cavity drain ports on the SRB Frustums at Hangar AF (we never did figure out the root cause of that one). And all the while you exemplified some rare traits of a leader; that of listening, truly engaged, committed to the task and always willing to do what was right. Americas human spaceflight effort will not be the same without you. I have thoroughly enjoyed your blog and reliving some great memories along with you. The honesty and candidness that anchored it all was refreshing. Your quoted choice for you last blog says it all. And after 33 years I can say I certainly understand. This ol’ booster guy wishes you nothing but CAVU skies in the continuation of your climb to orbit. And thanks for some great memories.

  15. Pretty common event at NASA these days. A lot of knowledge leaving aerospace & going into more practical careers like house flipping, credit default swaps, & lobbying. You were lucky to be not just NASA of the 1950’s or NASA of the 2000’s but the peak of human achievement in the 1980’s. Never again will humans launch giant space galleons using the absolute limit of technology.

  16. Thank you, Mr. Hale, for all you have done for the space program.

    Our paths crossed at the Space Symposium in Colorado Springs a couple years back, when we shared a few rides on the shuttle bus. I so appreciated hearing a bit of your experience firsthand.

    Enjoy your time with your family, and if you ever feel like continuing to help teach the next generation of space geeks…I know a space studies program that would love to have you (we already have two retired astronauts on the faculty).

    Katie Berryhill
    American Public University System

  17. Mr Hayle,
    I have enjoyed your blog for a few months now. Your posts are always thoughtful, never failing to make me think. Reading a new post from you each week has become something to look forward to.

    In these past few months where havoc has been reigning, I admire the fact that you have not ranted and raved about it, one way or another.

    I do hope you continue blogging in some form. I certainly hope you will continue tweeting too.

    There seems to be a theme developing in the comments of quoting final episodes of Star Trek. So I shall merely say this:

    To the journey….

  18. No fancy words or quotes. Just gratitude for your leadership. Praying blessings for you and your family in the days, weeks, months, years ahead. I do echo the sentiments of hoping you’ll continue to blog and/or write a book. You blogged recently about maybe the little influence FDs have. Don’t underestimate the influence you have, not only on the NASA communtiy, your family, but also on those you will never meet this side of Heaven.

    Take care,
    Kerri Hagee
    Entry Support
    Jeremiah 29:11

  19. if I could write as well as Twain — and read as well as Wayne — I would leave a better mark upon the world as it is. A man of letters as well as an engineer that understands the Space Shuttle! Wayne, go gracefully into your next adventures. America will miss your leadership and eloquence.

  20. I only worked with you for a short while but I was impressed. You are a great engineer and manager (I like the engineer title better!).

    Whaterver the future holds for you and yours, I wish you and yours the best.

    Good luck and thanks.


  21. Sir, you will be missed. I have enjoyed your NASA press conferences and blogs for quite a while now. Please enjoy your other family for many many years.
    Tim Miner

  22. Dear Mr. Hale,

    Thank you for your excellent work in the space program and for sharing your insights through emails and blogs. I must admit that your latest post made me a little sad though. Not that you’re leaving (that I evaluate as a loss for NASA, but hopefully a good thing for you), but the implication that the joy of human spaceflight had been lost. Is it possible that at the end of a long career we can feel towards our profession what Richard Feynman says here about the flower?


  23. Live long and prosper Mr. Hale.

    Your contributions to our Nation’s legacy in Space have been huge.

    I hope you continue your blog after you leave NASA; some things just need to be said, and you have the gift of being a true communicator.

  24. Wayne, as you say “All good things”. I will miss your blogs as I have enjoyed and been enlightened by your writings. This last year has been a maelstrom of change with a flight rate including a marvelous test flight not matched since 1997. Now in the shuttle twilight, I must say it was a pleasure working with you and for you as a contractor. What more could anyone ask for but to share a great dream with an even greater team. Best in Flight and Life!

  25. Sorry to hear that – has really been enjoying reading your blog!! An engineer that can write, so it is interesting is rare 😉

    Good luck!

  26. Wayne-
    It was with both surprise and understanding that I read your “All Good Things” entry. I sincerely hope the Agency and the Nation will one day fully recognize and appreciate the enormous magnitude of your accomplishments and the impact of your leadership on the success of Human Spaceflight.
    Your steady and supportive hand on the tiller of the Shuttle Program during Return-to-Flight following the Columbia accident enabled amazing improvements in performance and reductions in risk of the External Tank. Serving as a member of your team during those difficult and challenging years was clearly the highlight of my NASA career.
    Let there be no doubt… you will be greatly missed !! But I believe you’ll really enjoy retirement with all the new possibilities it opens. With the exception of Sunday, every day is Saturday !!
    Thanks Wayne,

  27. I only ever met you once, on a day I will always remember because I was gently scolded by THE Wayne Hale for bringing to the table uncertainty in place of clear conclusion. There are precious few certainties in this community, and your ability to find and grasp the root of the matter is one that will surely be sorely missed.

    Your Mark Twain quotation really stikes me as representative of what many of us experience, whether we recognize it or not. I reallized on my first day how jaded some become to the wonder of the things we do, having seen the dangers that lurk behind every spectacle.

    I worked launch imagery review for several years, and at first was amazed at the intricate choreography of all the violence that drives a Shuttle to orbit. Then I began to understand what puffs of smoke, shifting shadows, specks of orange, and fluttering bits of white could mean. To this day a launch catches my breath more for its supense than its spectacle. Despite that, its worth striving to step back and let knowledge enrich the view rather than spoiling it.


  28. as everyone has commented, you will definately be missed. I like everyone else wish you well for the future

    Godspeed Wayne Hale

  29. Wayne,

    As an average citizen with no connections to the space program other than Tang and Velcro, it has been a thrill to read your blogs. Your blogs have taught us many lessons about space, civics and life (to name just a few). I have waited anxiously for each new post and have read each and every one of them as soon as they were discovered – except for this one. It took me a few days to get up the courage to read this entry knowing full well that it would probably be your last. And, true to form, it has hit me with the same sadness as I feel when good friends move away. Thank you for being that friend I could count on to help see past my own short-sighted perspectives.

    It is with much joy and a little bit of sadness that I wish you happiness in this “giant leap” that you are taking. May you be blessed in all that you do!


  30. I have enjoyed your unique perspectives from your writings, but none more than “Why does Rice play Texas?” In a world of “group think” and un-original followers, you stand out as a man of creativity and wit. Best of luck in the future.

  31. Wayne,

    To reemphasize earlier comments, please continue blogging! We cannot get enough of the flight director stories. Wishing you the best in your retirement.

    Joe Fitzgerald,
    Boston MA

  32. I’ve been reading your blog for ages. I love it. I love all your old stories about shuttle missions and fake heart attacks during testing and engineering jokes. Thank you for sharing this with us. Have fun in retirement.

  33. Thanks for the interesting blogs over the years, I found them a very insightful window into NASA.

    Personally your most memorable blog was the ridicule of the “Chicken Wire” analogy for retaining the foam on the Shuttle Tank.

  34. Wayne you were inspirational and refreshing as the Shuttle Program Manager/Leader. Your Blog is inspiring and refreshing. I have known a few people in a position of power with their feet placed firmly on the ground. You are one of them. I believe success will follow you with what ever you do in retirement. Please continue your Blog it is very enjoyable and informative reading.

    Have a Blessed Retirement,

  35. as a soon to be laid off space worker, we were told to have a ‘plan B’ to fall back on, yours should be becoming a writer. Never have I enjoyed a blog so much. Your English teacher should be very proud of you. I always loved your emails when you were flight director. May God keep you and your family well as you broach a new phase of your life.

  36. Godspeed Wayne. Maybe you can write a book like that other Flight Director did. I would for sure buy it. Your blog is the only one that I read, I will miss your words of wisdom. Best in luck in retirement.

  37. Hi Wayne,
    Wow, a few retired people that have affected peoples lives…..
    music groups, news people, politicians, and now Wayne Hale.

    Perhaps NASA could compile some footage of your work,
    as seen on NASA-TV, and supply it to schools, and universities, as encouragement for youngsters to effect others.
    Thanks for your affect.
    Whenever I watch the Space Station flyby, I will try to remember you, and raise a toast to everyone who put up that beacon of hope.

  38. Wayne – you always were, and continue to be, a friend, a true leader, and an inspiration to those around you.

    I am honored to have worked for and with you, am privileged to count you among my friends, and am always proud when I read your blogs and think “I know that guy!” I hope you can continue to blog, whether it’s “for NASA” or on your own, as you do have a following! 🙂

    You have served your country’s space program honorably, with pride, and with more than a few graveyard shifts on console!

    Fair winds and following seas my friend… enjoy your retirement – you’ve earned it!


  39. Wayne, we will miss you beyond belief. We will miss your insightful stories, your straightforward commentary, your engineering judgment. Make the most of your retirement days, as I’m sure you will. Enjoy, and God bless you and your family.

    Beth Webber

  40. Wayne-

    Congratulations on your retirement. I know it is a bitter-sweet moment. The comments from your co-workers are very special. You have accomplished much, and made a difference during challenging times.

    You are an excellent writer. I’ve really enjoyed and learned from the blog postings I’ve read. keep it up!

    And I do remember when Gene Roddenberry came to campus. It was a great evening.

    Best Wishes – Rick Dyke (Rice 76)

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