Planning a study trip for more than three years and the time comes when you first see a new world. This is an unofficial sketch of how I experienced this during the Ultima Thule meeting of NASA's New Spacecraft Horizon. The setting is just a New York conference room 2019 within Building 200 of the Johns Hopkins University's Applied Physics University, which runs New Horizons. The room supports the analytical work of the New Horizons Geophysics and Geological Survey, one of the three divisions of the entire research team designed to explore Ultima Thule. The other science departments are housed in similar premises elsewhere in building 200. Other APL buildings host both navigation teams, the operating team, a diverse array of instrument and space engineers, and a variety of management and support staff , which makes it possible for more than 1
00 people to unite their efforts in the common cause. Alan Stern is a senior researcher and responsible for the mission of everything.
We all had to make the meeting. Each of us has a story that has to say, part of the game, a unique perspective. The credit for success goes far, many more people than shown in the photos in this article, not to mention the few I call in the story. After all, the experience of the meeting is always personal – where you are, what you did at the time, who you were, and the shared responses of those of the team you work with. This story is just what I saw from the point of view of the small part of the team I was doing at that time.
On an emotional basis, it can not be more electric.
The Deep Space network spent an hour capturing telemetry from the New Horizons spacecraft while sending the image via a Boulder and Colorado pipeline. Wait, check, wait a little longer for a file to build in a particular directory. Who actually sees the image first encounters who noticed the update of the key file – or the fastest typewriting.
But John Spencer first has a solo. This is John, who stands to the right. (I'm at the far right, I'm almost sure to load the image). John led the team by defining the entire observation sequence for Ultima Thule. Three years ago, a few months after we flew past Pluto, we fired the New Horizons pushers to direct the course to Ultima Thule. John stood up in a team meeting in November 2015 to ask, "Well, well, so what will we do when we get there?" There are unlimited teleconferences, meetings, PowerPoint presentations, simulations, consultations. In the middle of one thought I thought, "Goood, John is trying to order Chinese food for 100!" The trick is to make sure everyone gets enough to be happy even if he can not get everything he wants. we work side by side with Mark to make sure that we first have to get to Ultima Thule OK.
So, solo! While we are all crazy, John in his casual style remembers to ask Stewart for the exact position of Ultima Thule in the image and immediately knows that we have put it right on the money. Navigation looks perfect – we need to get everything we asked for. He sings around the room.