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#LaunchAmerica: Back in Business


"We do not give our GO lightly. There are risks on this mission, but we are ready, and it is time to fly." - Zeb Scoville, ISS Flight Director for DM-2 Mission

I've had nine years to think about what I would write on this day, but my feelings are still hard to put into words. 

Nine years ago the shuttle made its final journey into space leaving America reliant on Russian rockets and technology to reach the International Space Station. Back then I was a new Flight Test Engineer, dreaming about space but still learning the ropes in experimental helicopters. I wasn't married, I didn't have any kids, I was only halfway through a Masters degree. I would never have predicted what my life would look like today, as I sat in awe, tears streaming down my face -- an American rocket once again launched with humans on board, headed to the ISS. 

2020 has been tumultuous. It's been hard and unpredictable. It's been a year of isolation and heartache. It's been divisive and downright chilling. But for a moment, hope shown brighter than any of the ugly. 

You can read about the technical aspects of the Falcon 9 all over the web, you can replay the launch sequence and the obligatory post-launch speeches a thousand times if you want, but this space (pun intended) is personal. This is where I tell you I cried tears of pure joy and overwhelming pride while squeezing my two children as those 9 Merlin engines carried Bob and Doug to orbit. This is where I get to write about feeling deeply connected, and even rooted-in, a space program I spent decades admiring. This is my chance to remind you that none of us do this for the money, we do it to be part of something larger than ourselves. These words, in this nondescript corner of the internet, may not make headline news (ok, they definitely won't), but they are my feeble attempt at humanizing such a momentous accomplishment --there are real people behind the scenes putting together the plans and schedules, the engineering and the design, the operations and contingencies. Those guys in the seats are real people too, they live just a few miles from my house, and both of their wives are seasoned rocket women. 
 
 
In all of the fanfare, I want to remember the work -- all those hours writing and rewriting flight rules, all the question and answer sessions, the meetings, the considerations, the telecons, the training material. I want to remember rocking back and forth on my floor, watching Doug take some deep breaths just before liftoff. I want to remember feeling exhausted from spending the last 9 weeks working from home with my 2 and 4-year-old due to a worldwide pandemic. I want to remember feeling challenged to keep afloat -- balancing a demanding job at NASA, with the duties of being a mom and wife, on top of baseline requirements to keep myself alive with an autoimmune disease. I want to remember that all of this was about way more than just me, but how profoundly I was affected the moment the fire left the trench. 

Over the last nine years, my perspectives have shifted slightly. I used to think NASA was huge and the budgets seemingly endless. But now I am in the fold and I have realized how much we can do with a relatively small number of people, as long as we have shared goals and energies. And I think this is pertinent. Look at how much, even a small group of people, can accomplish, with a shared vision. 

Scott Stover, a respected friend and NASA Flight Director posted today, "In a world where many things may be going wrong...something just went right."



Bob and Doug, SpaceX and NASA -- you saved 2020. <3

Comments

  1. I watched the launch. It was amazing. I cannot wait to get the patch.

    ReplyDelete

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