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OFJ Field Journal from Robert Gounley - 11/17/95

THE FUTURE -- IT STILL LOOKS FANTASTIC!

Last night, was an especially dramatic night. On its way to Jupiter, an interplanetary spacecraft suffered a major system malfunction. All seemed lost as the onboard computer ran amuck and starting shutting down vital equipment. In the end, human intervention shut down the malfunctioning computer and the mission was saved.

Happily, this was not a night at Galileo Mission Ops. Last night, a Hollywood movie theater played _2001: A Space Odyssey_ to a packed house. A friend and I found two of the last remaining seats and sat back to watch the adventure unfold. The experience of viewing 2001 on a large screen, aided by full stereophonic sound, took me back to the first time I saw it, almost 27 years ago. Pan Am flights to a rotating space station, regular shuttles to the Moon, a ship sent to explore Jupiter -- the future looked fantastic!

The beauty of the film to me is that it doesn't look dated. Its view of the future was a reasonable extrapolation of what the 1990s _could_ have been. Our 1990s may not look quite like the film version, but the vision is there to challenge us.

As I write this, an American Space Shuttle orbits the Earth, docked to a Russian space station. An interplanetary spacecraft, Galileo, is almost in orbit around Jupiter after a six year voyage. I am now working on a project to send a spacecraft off to a comet using an ion thruster, a step towards making space travel as fast and routine as in the movie.

The future -- it still looks fantastic!


Until recently, Bob Gounley was a Deputy Chief of the Galileo Orbiter Engineering Team. He now works on the NSTAR project doing system integration (a fancy way of saying that he makes sure all the parts will work together). He now observes the Galileo project from a distance and expects their discoveries will be "something wonderful."

 

 
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