OFJ97 Field Journal from Todd Barber - 4/7/97Gute Reise, Galileo! Es war sehr schoen.
(Have a good trip, Galileo! I had a lovely time.)
What a fitting way to conclude my involvement with OFJ--a journal entry on my last day of essentially full-time Galileo employment! On Monday, I start in earnest on the Cassini mission to Saturn, with lesser amounts of time spent on Galileo and a Mars Sample Return mission.
It is really tough thinking of leaving this project. I started on Galileo in October, 1990, one year after launch. This was my first job after leaving college, and I watched the remainder of my 20's slip away on this project. What times we have had together! Stunning triumphs and bitter disappointments--I have grown and stumbled as Galileo has grown and stumbled. I will never forget the deep and lasting friendships I have made here, the true sense of teamwork and commitment that embodies Galileo. To all of my friends and coworkers on the project, I say thank you. Without you, this would just be a job--you made it an adventure.
Since my last journal entry, I have been busier than ever, even though the propulsion system has continued its exemplary performance. We are writing a conference paper for a propulsion conference in Seattle, and that is keeping me and my two German colleagues very busy. Specifically, this is the final propulsion system "characterization" (that is, describing the state and health of the system) paper for Galileo, including the performance of the main engine and propellant feed system. I'm sure that the propulsion community eagerly awaits our data, since Galileo was a true trailblazer among bipropellant propulsion systems. No mission has ever asked so much of a bipropellant propulsion system, and Galileo rose marvelously to the challenge (but not without some "hiccups" along the way, to keep things interesting).
I still continue to talk about Galileo to service organizations and schools, as part of the JPL Speakers' Bureau. This is tremendously rewarding work to me. In fact, recently I had three talks within one week--two rotary clubs and one elementary school (4th-6th graders) with 250 students present! (It's a good thing I am kind of a "ham" and like public speaking.) Many of the children have written me letters and I have written them all back individually, answering their questions. This takes some time, but if I can entice just one person to keep up their interest in math and science, it is well worth the effort. Our society at large has an abysmal connection to math and science in every day life, and I want to help correct that (of course, I am preaching to the choir here, because OFJ participants are obviously scientifically knowledgeable and inquisitive by nature).
This year has been tough for me, trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up! I knew that the Germans with whom I work would be staying for the Galileo Europa Mission (GEM), and it is hard to "compete" with them on a cost-capped mission--since the German government pays their salaries, Galileo gets to use them for free! What a stroke of luck that my friend Fawzi decided he had had enough of smoggy Pasadena! I am taking over for him on Monday as a member of the Cassini propulsion team. Cassini, an exciting mission of discovery at Saturn, is due to launch on October 6, 1997. Saturn arrival is July 1, 2004!
Before the Cassini position came through, I was actually finding some free time on Galileo. Therefore, my boss gave me some work to do for a Mars Sample Return mission, to be launched in 2003 from the Earth. This was a very different challenge for me, since this mission is literally just on the drawing board. My task was to survey EVERY rocket builder in the world to see if they had an engine that would meet our thrust requirements for a Mars Ascent engine (i.e., the rocket motor used to propel samples from Mars back to Earth). I have been struggling with this assignment, trying to contact companies in Sweden, England, Germany, Italy, France, Russia, and Japan, as well as a dozen companies in the United States! Time zone changes, international dialing, language barriers, vacations, etc. are really making this task quite challenging and a bit frustrating.
When my friend Fawzi decided to leave JPL, his boss on Cassini asked for me by name, as a replacement. So my supervisor told me he had two offers for me for next year. One was Fawzi's Cassini position, the other was a permanent position designing the Mars Sample Return mission. Though I have not yet had any development experience (and therefore that would be very useful for me), I selected the Cassini position. I absolutely LOVE mission operations, flying a spacecraft and enjoying the fantastic science results. Since it is 35 years until my expected retirement date, I have plenty of time to design, build, and fly many missions. Cassini just looked too exciting to pass up!
I thank you for your boundless interest in Galileo. It could not work with out your support (your tax dollars, your scientific interest, and your enthusiasm). You are every bit as much a part of this project as I am.
Until we meet again (hopefully on the way to Saturn!)