OFJ Field Journal from Todd Barber - 1/11/96
EVEN PROPULSION FOLKS DO OUTREACHHappy New Year, everyone! And what a happy 1996 it is, with the orbiter safely tucked in Jupiter orbit and with some high-priority probe data on the Earth (though not released due to the government furlough). There is not much I can write about arrival day that could possibly do justice to the tremendous joy I felt at orbit insertion. I can tell you, though, that as one of the people responsible for the propulsion system, including the main engine and thus orbit insertion, I was quite antsy following the successful lock onto the probe signal after 3 pm on arrival day (following my initial whooping and hollering). Ironically, this success put more pressure on us to at least have a safe ATTEMPT to get into orbit, since now we knew that there was most likely probe data on the orbiter to be played back to Earth! In other words, suddenly the stakes for avoiding a catastrophic failure while attempting orbit insertion were much, much higher. Luckily, I had only had 3 hours to deal with such ruminations!
I purposely chose a high visibility spot in the mission control area for the Jupiter Orbit Insertion (JOI) burn, being kind of a "TV ham." I actually had a vested interest in doing so--my parents, sister and brother-in-law and some of my high school teachers were watching the events unfold (live via satellite link) from the Kansas Cosmosphere, in Hutchinson, Kansas, near Wichita. In November, I had done an article with the Wichita Eagle, a daily newspaper with a circulation of 250,000.
The local TV news picked up on the story and my family became local celebrities around Wichita, with newspaper and television interviews after the successful completion of JOI! Apparently, fifteen minutes of fame can be contagious. Between Christmas and New Year's, I did a follow-up article with the newspaper while home visiting my family.
This so-called "public outreach" is becoming a more important part of our business at JPL, which suits me just fine. There is nothing I enjoy more than conveying the excitement of this place and our missions to the general public. I recently joined the JPL Speaker's Bureau, a volunteer organization here that sends members out to schools, rotary clubs, etc. to brief the public on how we spend their tax dollars here, nestled up against the towering San Gabriel mountains. As you might imagine, there is a strong desire to hear more about the Galileo mission in the general public right now, so the Speaker's Bureau was very glad to have me aboard. I can't wait for my first assignment!
Of course, work continues as well (there doesn't seem to be much time to celebrate in this biz). Some of my recent pursuits include doing a quick look at the JOI data to make sure that the propulsion system seems leak-tight with respect to helium (the pressurant), nitrogen tetroxide (the oxidizer), and monomethylhydrazine (the fuel); starting to plan the proper usage of the main engine for the perijove raise maneuver in mid-March, which raises the spacecraft's orbit above the harshest radiation surrounding Jupiter for subsequent closest approaches to the planet; and helping select an alternate duty cycle (the on-time and wait-time for engine firing) for the spin-rate change burns around the perijove raise maneuver. After this maneuver, there is currently no planned subsequent usage of the 400-N engine (although, perhaps the main engine will be needed at the end-of-mission to go back to Io, if that turns out to be feasible). Also, after the perijove raise maneuver, we will have used nearly 90% of the total propellant on-board Galileo.
It has been a stupendous last few months, and I look forward to sharing with you in the excitement of the unique science results that will be astounding us in the coming months and years. Thank you for your support and interest in the Galileo mission, and, to quote the Kansas state motto, "Ad Astera Per Aspera!" (To the stars through difficulties)