Reflecting on the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing

Reflecting on the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing

Witnessing history:

As anniversaries go, the celebration of America's moon landing is special to me and something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately. As you might already know, this week marks the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar mission. The historic spaceflight began at Florida’s Kennedy Space Center on July 16, 1969. Four days later, on July 20th, American astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first people ever to walk on the moon. It’s an achievement I’ve thought about since I was a teenager. I often think about the courage of these astronauts to step, quite literally, into the unknown, taking enormous risks for the sake of science and exploration.

Can you even imagine what it must have felt like to stand on the surface of the moon, all alone, staring back at Earth and knowing you are the first of your entire species to step foot there? It’s an enormous thought.

It took so much innovation and hard work to make the first moonwalk happen, I often think about how this event shaped those who watched it unfold. It inspired countless future innovators and is something I draw from to guide my thinking in my role here at OFS—especially as it relates to innovation and risk-taking.
- Hank Menke, CEO of OFS   

NASA buddies:

Hank Menke, Commander Precourt, Ryan Menke (left to right)I’ve been so lucky to have the opportunity to call several NASA astronauts and engineers my friends - I guess pilots think a lot alike. Now, I’m not comparing myself to these brave pilots, I’m just saying we have a way of building camaraderie with one another. It’s a beautiful thing. 

In 2015, OFS hosted Earl Robb, Dean Purdy, "Fluff" Robb, Bob Schepp, Jerry Roberts, Norman Beckel to benefit a local charity. All of these men played major roles throughout Project: Mercury and Project: Gemini. It was a thrill to be able to sit with this crew and their families and hear them talk about their experiences. 

Recently, OFS also had the honor of getting a visit from Charles (Charlie) Precourt, a now-retired NASA astronaut. A highly decorated veteran of four different space missions, Commander Precourt was Chief of the Astronaut Corps from 1998-2002 and was inducted into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame in 2012. Retired since 2004, Charlie now leads the Space Launch Division at ATK, where he oversees the development of launch systems that he hopes will enable human-manned deep space exploration. Isn’t that amazing?!

Space exploration creates inspiration, a path for knowledge, and ultimately, a better life. Neil Armstrong made that giant leap for us, which was the most inspirational thing we saw to that point in our lives.
- Commander Precourt, retired NASA astronaut   

I couldn’t agree more as the moon landing played such an important role in my life. I remember watching it and thinking, “boy, if that’s possible, what else can we accomplish?” I was 17 then and marveled at this accomplishment these three men achieved as a team, focused on a singular goal. It was incredible to watch.

Innovation and teamwork:

NASA engineers visit OFSInnovation requires leaps. When we leap, we risk failure—spectacular failure in some cases. However, we must take these leaps to move forward. I’ve leaped and failed more times than I can count, but failure is necessary. It teaches you how to leap better the next time. But, to be successful, you have to keep leaping.  

Creating an innovative company is something I consider as one of the biggest business challenges I face and something I strive to embed deeply into the fabric of our culture. I try to help foster an ecosystem of innovation at every level and department. No idea goes unheard and failure is welcomed. However, for me, the fundamental component of innovation is teamwork. We fail together, we win together, we support each other. Just as those brave astronauts did 50 years ago. 

If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.
- Henry Ford   

I love that quote, it speaks to the spirit of innovation as a team activity. 

As I reflect on the moon landing this week, I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to experience it in real-time. This event instilled in me a great appreciation for teamwork, innovation, and a drive to always dream bigger. I’m looking forward to seeing our next breakthrough in space exploration, so it can inspire future generations, as the first lunar mission did for me.

Hank Menke
Insights Contributor

About the author: President and CEO of OFS Brands Inc. carry’s on the family tradition of furniture manufacturing into the 6th generation.  In 1974, Hank earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Industrial Engineering from Millikin University in Decatur, IL. Upon college graduation, Hank took a position as Production Scheduler and later as Plant Manager for Thomasville Furniture Industries in North Carolina.  In 1978, he returned to Huntingburg to join his father, Bob Menke, in the family business, then known as Styline Industries, Inc.  Hank was named President of Styline Industries, Inc. in 1982.  In 1987, the company switched from producing residential furnishings to producing office furniture. Styline Industries is now called OFS Brands, Inc. OFS, Carolina, and Bryan Ashley currently produce office, healthcare, and hospitality furniture and employ over 1900 employees. Hank is the third generation President and CEO of the 86 year-old family-owned business.