OFJ Field Journal from Dave Atkinson - 11/18/95With the government furlough, my trip to Ames this week was canceled and it was a chance to catch up on a few things. This semester I am teaching a junior level course in electromagnetic theory at the University of Idaho. I planned ahead, for once, and realizing that this was the semester that Galileo would finally reach Jupiter, I decided to teach the course on video. The University of Idaho has a very extensive engineering outreach program. It is not unusual for me to have students from around the world. This time one of my students is from Taiwan. One advantage to teaching a course on video is that I can pretape lectures. So, when I attended the Division of Planetary Science meeting in Hawaii in October, I pretaped 6 lectures. Electromagnetics can be a confusing subject for ...... well, everyone. But to make it even more fun, imagine giving lecture number 23 on Monday, lectures 27, 28, and 29 on Tuesday, lecture 24 Wednesday, lecture 25 on Thursday morning, followed by lectures 30 and 31 on Thursday afternoon, and lecture 26 on Friday It is difficult enough to give lectures in sequence. Trying to deliver coherent lectures out of order is somewhat mind numbing!
Since I had planned to be at Ames this week, I once again pretaped the week's lectures. But with the government furlough and the trip canceled, I have now an open week with which to try and catch up. This semester I am the chairman of my department's promotion and tenure committee. We have four Assistant Professors going up for promotion to Associate Professor with tenure, one Associate Professor being considered for promotion to Full Professor, and four Assistant Professors undergoing a detailed third year review. This has kept me busy throughout the semester. I am also in charge of our department research colloquium, the Department of Electrical Engineering Honors, Awards and Scholarship committee, and the public relation committee. And, just so I don't find myself getting too bored, I am the Associate Director of the NASA Idaho Space Grant Consortium, and one of several Assistant Directors of the Idaho NASA EPSCoR (Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research) Program. One of the advantages of working at a small school is you get to stay busy!
But, of course, most of my time has been spent waiting for, planning for, and getting nervous for December 7. Throughout the semester (as well as last summer, and the previous year) I have been trying to understand the formatting and time tagging of Navigation team trajectory data files, and radioscience data files, something which is absolutely necessary in order for me to run my experiment. A graduate student and I have been frantically writing software to read, reduce, combine, and analyze the proper data for Doppler wind measurements (a topic for another journal). Now that my student has graduated, I am working alone to run simulation after simulation, understand the effect of errors on the wind measurements, and make final adjustments to the code. This work has, for the most part, been restricted to weekends and evenings since the week itself is filled with teaching and committee work.
A real thrill for me is watching the local community, and, for that matter, the entire Pacific Northwest, get excited about the upcoming mission. In the past several weeks I have given talks to 75 enthusiastic fifth graders at Blue Ridge Elementary School in Walla Walla, to physics and astronomy students at Whitman College, and to the Spokane Astronomical Society. On Friday I spent a significant portion of my day on the phone with the science editors from the Seattle Times and the Portland Oregonian, and on Monday I will talk to fifth and sixth graders at St. Mary's school in Moscow. Next week I talk to two cub scout dens, give a graduate research colloquium and talk to the freshman astronomy class at the University of Idaho. And I don't mind a bit. I may not be the best speaker in the world, but I don't have to be. Galileo is such an exciting project and mission that it sells itself. And people I have talked to, especially the young people, cannot get enough. It is wonderful to be able to offer something that generates genuine interest and excitement among the kids.
It is Saturday night, November 18. Less than three weeks until we get to Jupiter. I finalized my travel plans today - I will leave on Sunday, December 3 (my son's seventh birthday) for Ames. After one day at Ames I will fly to Pasadena on the 5th where I will stay at the Holiday Inn. On Wednesday, December 6 I get to talk with about 150 fifth and sixth graders at Ybarra school in Walnut (about 45 minutes from Pasadena), and then the big day on the seventh. My plan is to get to JPL about 6 AM and make a day out of it. The probe mission begins at just before 3:00 P.M. (local time in California). In the evening I expect a group of us will go to dinner, reminisce, relax, and just be excited. By Saturday I will head back to Ames to begin preparing for the preliminary data analysis, followed by a press conference on December 19 where we get to show off our early results. And, finally, on December 20 I head home. Merry Christmas!
November 19 to December 7: Galileo is 18 days from Jupiter!