At the cutting edge of Space exploration, NASA has certainly earned itself the worldwide reputation that it rightly deserves. Contrary to the popular belief, NASA is not just the astronauts’ launching agent; it rather has some 18,000 employees in addition to the astronauts.
These employees are more if not equally critical for a successful space mission. Following is a list of some interesting defining moments in the lives of some NASA employees who worked on various major Space missions.
Landing on the New Planet
Rob Manning, Chief Engineer for Mars Science Laboratory Mission
Sitting impatiently in his office in the early hours of 4th July 1997, Rob Manning was squinting on his computer monitor closely analysing various lines of data dancing on his screen. These graphics and data were of alien origin; sending information of events unfolding millions of miles away from earth. NASA’s Pathfinder was preparing to land on Mars; everything was in order and plan was being executed according to plan.
Rob was constantly in touch with a team of researchers on the other side of the world receiving signals from Pathfinder via a large antenna in Madrid, Spain. Talking about the Pathfinder landing, Rob said that although astronauts and engineers always talk about landing on planets and the moon; the actual event is so mesmerizing that no amount of training can prepare you for the awe it evokes.
He added that at the precise moment Pathfinder touched down he himself felt like setting foot on the surface of Mars; a feeling that Rob describes as monumental and life changing.
Meeting with Uranian Rings
Dr. Linda Spilker, Project Scientist Cassini Mission Saturn
Dr. Linda told her special story while she worked for NASA on Cassini Saturn Mission; for her, the first glance at the rings of Uranus was her favourite moment of the Space exploration career. The incident Linda is referring to actually took place with Voyager, while on its mission to the outer edge of the solar system it went past Uranus, sending home some breathtaking high definition images of the magical rings of Uranus.
Dr. Linda explains her amazement on the beauty of the image when she saw the images of Voyager’s light reflecting from the rings’ dusty clouds; first time anyone had set their eyes on the mysterious rings. Dr. Linda says that the magical moment made her a ring scientist in a matter of minutes.
Todd J. Barber, Propulsion Engineer Cassini Mission and Mars Exploration Mission
Todd’s story is perhaps unlike any other stories mentioned in this list, purely because it does not take place in NASA’s laboratory; it originated in Todd’s grandmother’s house. In 1980, when Todd was an 8th grader he visited his grandmother’s and had his moment of awe and clarity.
Todd talks about a moment so common yet so profound and magical that it defined rest of his life. While sifting through a National Geographic magazine, Todd saw high definition (1980s HD not 2016 HD) images of Jupiter and Saturn. These images Todd explains struck a chord in his imagination, and he knew then and there what he had to do when he grew up; Todd had decided he would be a space explorer.
Belly of the Dragon
Marc Rayman Mission Director & Chief Engineer Dawn Mission to Giant Asteroids Vestas and Ceres.
Associated with apocalypse and destruction on cosmic scales, Asteroids are feared worldwide as deadly alien planet killers; and rightly so. Eleven days after the catastrophic events of 9/11, while American nation and people world over were in shock and mourning, Marc Rayman had once in a lifetime chance to see the monster in the eye.
When Deep Space 1 started sending Marc recent images it had taken in the space while chasing giant asteroids; Marc was in for a shock when he set his eyes on the ‘nucleus’ of the Borrelly asteroid. Marc talks about the moment as mesmerizing and awe-inspiring on so many levels. It not only provided him with some solace in the darkest moments; it brought him face to face with one of the most