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OFJ Field Journal from Rosaly Lopes-Gautier - 12/7/95

FOLLOWING DREAMS

Today is the Big Day and everyone has been asking me how I feel. It has been a very long journey for Galileo but also for myself. I've taken a moment to recall how I got here, how I worked for so many years to be part of this. Ever since I was a little girl, growing up in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, I wanted to work for NASA and be involved in the exploration of space. I don't know how I got the idea in my head, but it's been there for the longest time. So, I left Brazil at the age of 18, to go to University in London, England. I had realized during my teens that if I stayed in my home country I was very unlikely to be able to achieve my dream.

So, off to England I went, to get a degree in Astronomy, then a Ph.D. in planetary geology. I got involved in the study of volcanoes and was hooked. Volcanoes are just great and seeing an eruption live is one of the most exciting things that anyone can do. Just as I started my Ph.D., the Voyager spacecraft flew by Jupiter and found out that there are active volcanoes on Io, spewing out stuff over 100 miles above the ground. Wow!

So, I lived in England for 14 years, swore allegiance to the Queen, became a citizen and thought I would live there ever after but... Well, funding for planetary research was very bad and I still had this dream of being involved in space exploration, be a member of a real space mission. A chance phone conversation with a JPL scientist led me to apply for a postdoctoral research position here. It was a temporary job, only two years. People in England thought I was crazy to leave my secure civil-service job as a museum curator but I knew I had to follow my dream. So off I went, moving countries once more.

I was lucky at JPL. I became good friends with Adriana Ocampo, another South American. She was working on Galileo as a science coordinator for the Near Infrared Mapping Spectrometer (NIMS) team and as it turned out, NIMS needed someone to plan Io (one of Jupiter's moons) science. That's how I joined the project, in 1991. My first job was to plan the science observations for Galileo's second Earth-Moon flyby, which took place in 1992. Then I started to plan Io science. I went to many meetings and had to fight many battles. The loss of the high gain antenna meant that our resources were limited, so all the instrument teams were in fierce competition. This competition was particularly severe for the Io flyby which took place today. We discussed, we met in many places, we negotiated, compromised, and at last came up with a really good plan. We finished that plan at the end of 1993 - just as my son was born. I took 10 days off work to have the baby and I can really say that he was born between meetings. This last October, about the time I celebrated his second birthday, we found out about the problem with the tape recorder. A couple of weeks later we knew that we would not be recording any Io flyby data. SO, all that planning and work and high expectations came to nothing.

I have to admit to feeling a little bitter about the loss, but I'm still celebrating. I know we will have two years of gathering really good data, for Io, Jupiter, and the other satellites. There is a lot to look forward to and we should not dwell on failures. You really have to be philosophical when you work on a space mission, you know that everything is at the forefront of technology and something can go wrong. You have to risk working for a long time on something that may come to nothing. But I have no regrets and I will be very happy when we get into orbit tonight. It will be the start of two exciting years, when we should find out many of Io's secrets. There is still the hope that we will go back to Io for a close look - maybe at the end of the mission or with another mission. In fact, I'm already involved in the planning of a possible next mission to Io. Will it get funded? I don't know, but I know I have to try. The dream must go on.

 

 
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