Spirit has landed! This photo from JPL shows my group supervisor on the far right and several of the people I worked with over the past two years. I wasn’t at JPL last night, but I was jumping up and down, nonetheless. It’s an amazingly hard feat to accomplish, landing on Mars. The rest of the mission, gathering data, pales in comparison, in my estimation. It’s still difficult, but just knowing you’ve successfully hit the atmosphere at 12,000 MPH, and bounced multiple times on an air-bag to land gives one a bit of confidence.
Friday at work,there was a palpable nervousness around the lab. With the Stardust probe close encounter of Wild-2 happening Friday morning, there were enough media folks around then to really clog things up. JPL employees had been told to stay away form the main gate yesterday, and that only specially-badged people would be allowed around the Flight Ops building. All the talking heads had their spots picked out to do their interviews, and we’d obligingly placed several of the full-scale models on the JPL mall to give them talking points. Even with the rain, the temporary tents were doing fine.
Maybe it’s tough for non-technical people to understand, but the success just makes me feel giddy all over. Something I worked on, with some of the smartest people in the world, worked right the very first time it had to. For an engineer, there is nothing sweeter. And it was a huge team at JPL that worked on various parts of MER. I handled most of the vibration testing for all the cameras, and some structural analysis work for various sundry parts, like the propellant system, the solar panels, and others. And it all came together at the Jet Propulsion Lab.