OFJ Field Journal from Claudia Alexander - 12/11/95Well, arrival day came and it was a zoo, just as I anticipated. The first thing that happened was that I got here and noticed that everybody was dressed up but me! I must not have gotten word that people were going to do this. I was wearing black leggings, black Indian-style boots with fringe down the back, a black turtleneck, and a black and white sweater. One of my friends looked at me and said "Gee Claudia, those boots were popular... in the '70's" (which was when I bought them). But I thought it'll be OK, I'm just one of the crew, hanging out today.
Then I got nailed. It was about 10:00 am, and I was waiting for a phone call from my PI team at the University of Iowa, we were expecting to deliver some data with which to test our instruments in the testbed, and instead it was a call from Neal Ausman (the mission director) asking if I could take his place as a host at one of the VIP gatherings. First of all, I have never gotten a call from Neal Ausman! I pick up the phone and it was his secretary saying that Neal Ausman was looking for me and would I accept his call. At first I thought I must have done something wrong. Why else would the mission director, who I normally never interact with directly, call me?
It turned out that I was supposed to be a host from 4:00 to 7:15 pm in the Director's (of JPL) Conference Room. This is a conference room that is usually only used by the lab's director, so it's not like I go to meetings there all the time! I got there at 4:00 pm and opened the door and there were two older men sitting at the other end of the conference table. I waved to them and told them I was their hostess. I was carrying a bunch of stuff that I didn't want to drop; a slide tray full of slides, a stack of slippery overheads, a couple of binders, and some video tapes, so I didn't focus on who they were, I just supposed they were some VIP's early for the session.
They were VIP's, all right. It was Dan Goldin, the head of NASA and Gene Shoemaker, one of the discoverers of Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9, having a private meeting. They, of course, looked at me like I was from the planet Mars, and Mr. Goldin says, "you're in the wrong room". I cheerfully said "Oh no, this is the Director's Conference Room, right? This is the right room." I was smiling at them as I tried to stow my stack. Then I noticed that it was Goldin and Shoemaker. Mr Goldin says forcefully "would you check with the secretary!" I was *so* embarrassed. I just left and went away for about 20 minutes. But I knew other people were coming, and sure enough, as I found out later, one of my friends came in after me, she also ran into Mr. Goldin and Dr. Shoemaker, and another host who was supposed to be there did the same thing. We got together this morning and laughed about it. What a way to meet the Administrator of NASA!
As far as arrival day itself was concerned, I was pleased that the press was so positive about us. I was afraid that they would portray us in a bad light, as they usually do with all the problems we have had over the years. Instead they protrayed us as "the little spacecraft that could..." Every single newspaper did. Everyone seemed so pleased that we had demonstrated great technical capability despite everything. This was a very big relief to me. There would have been nothing like working for a project that was regarded as a national failure.
The best part was that my mother finally connected with what I have been devoted to for the past few years. Especially the past 6 months I haven't had much time for returning phone calls, I have neglected friends,etc, and I've been saying I've been busy with Gailieo work. AT thanksgiving my family gave me a hard time about being too devoted to the job. They said "just tell those people you wont do all that work..." Well, my mother must have seen something about in on the Nighly News (with Tom Brokaw - she mentioned him specifically) and she said "OHHHH. Is that what you do... We're going to learn all these exciting things about Jupiter for the first time... This is really exciting..." By that time (I was tired) and all I could say was "...great Mom. I'm glad you like it." But I was really happy that she finally understood why it was important to me.
And today Bill O'Neil and Neal Ausman walked through the corridors and shook everybody's hand. That was really nice. It's better than a certificate signed by a handwriting machine. It makes up for some of those long nights writing sequences!