Mad Scientess Jane Expat (nanila) wrote,
Mad Scientess Jane Expat

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Cassini End of Mission events, Part 1 of ?

I flew into Los Angeles on the Sunday before the last-while-Cassini-is-still-in-orbit-around-Saturn Project Science Group meeting began. I was feeling dodgy when I got up at 6 AM, but I napped in the taxi and took some ibuprofen, and hoped that the feeling would go away.

It did not.

I made sure my usual mobile pharmacy (ibuprofen, paracetamol, Rennie) was stocked in my rucksack before I boarded the plane, and was glad I'd done so about three hours into the flight when my fever started spiking. I alternated ibuprofen and paracetamol every two hours. The flight attendants kindly granted all of my requests for cold water/cans of ginger ale, which were frequent. It was one of the most miserable long-haul flights I've ever had.

I spent nearly all of Monday in bed apart from a brief foray out to get a hot Thai curry into my belly for lunch. This paid off on Tuesday, and I was able to spend half a day at Caltech to dial into the penultimate operations meeting. (There will be one more after the crash, but obviously we’ll no longer have an instrument status to report.) I was excited about this, because I had been saving up something for a very long time.

At every operations meeting, the uplink operations manager goes through the list of instrument teams and asks them to report their status. Ideally, the exchange goes something like this:

Operations Manager: “[Instrument name], [Operations engineer name].”
Operations Engineer: “[Instrument name] is fine/nominal. We have no ground issues.”

No one deviates from this script if they can help it. It’s as concise as it can get.

At the penultimate meeting, however, there were a lot of extra speeches thanking everyone for a great mission, emphasising how much they’ll miss the spacecraft and one another, etc.

I had something else planned.

Operations Manager: “[Instrument name], [Nanila].”
Me: “Hello. I’ve been dying to say this for years. [Instrument name] is tickety-boo. We have no ground issues.”

I’m not sure anyone heard the last sentence because laughter exploded through the speakers.

Operations Manager: “Thanks, [Nanila]. I’m, ah, not sure how to spell that.”

After the ops meeting concluded, the room began to fill up for the science meeting. I kept hearing people saying “tickety boo”, and I felt a warm glow of satisfaction over having introduced a criminally underused phrase into the JPL lexicon.
I collected our (mine and [personal profile] emelbe’s) badges for the Grand Finale event on Friday. They are rather beautiful.

I was given an end-of-mission lanyard and pin, too.

For the first couple of hours of the meeting, there were camera crews present. I sat to one side near the front of the room, directly behind a cameraman, thinking this would keep me safe from view. It mostly worked.

Lots of people gave speeches: the project scientist, the mission manager, the head of JPL, the Italian space agency rep, the European Space Agency rep, and so on. Everyone said nice things and patted one another on the back.

Before the real science discussions got underway, the Cassini Virtual Singers (all current and former members of the flight team) performed four popular songs with lyrics rewritten to be about Cassini. It was sweeter than I’d expected.

After some Classified Science stuff happened, I went to lunch with some of the younger colleagues on our instrument team. One of them happened to be a member of the Athenaeum, which is the most pleasant dining experience to be had at Caltech, so we all agreed to go there. I remember it being very nice there indeed, and the lunch buffet did not disappoint.

Here are some of the reprobates respected colleagues.

Here are the others.

And here I am, ready to dive into my lunch.

The Athenaeum features ridiculously ornate ladies’ toilets. They have always made me want to sit down and spend an unnecessary amount of time powdering my nose and fiddling with my hair whilst chatting to a friend. Sadly, I was alone, so I made do with another selfie.

After a coffee - and what sweet pleasure to order a cappuccino and have it involve a big pile of foam with very little milk in the espresso; Britain, take note, you still have not got this right - I felt my energy levels suddenly drop below critical. The achiness left by the fever began to claw its way round the edges of the painkillers. It was time to head home and flop for the rest of the day.

Me, on the walk between my accommodation and the meeting. I have missed palm trees, my friends.

The reflecting pools below the towering edifice that is the Millikan Library in the middle of the Caltech campus.

I was delighted to find that the tortoises turtles are still by those pools, endlessly sunning themselves on the rocks (“Do you like my arabesque? Wait, no, I don’t care what you think. I am gorgeous, darling, gorgeous.”)

to be continued

This entry was originally posted at The titration count is at comment count unavailable.0 pKa.
Tags: caltech, cassini, cassini grand finale, feelings so many feelings, los angeles, milestone, photo, space, swag, travel, vanity

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