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Mad Scientess Jane Expat

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Cassini End of Mission events, Part 4 of ? [20170916|00:17]
Mad Scientess Jane Expat
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[the weather today is |exhausted]
[with a hint of |no]

[personal profile] emelbe and I set our alarms for 02:30 and 02:35 respectively, just to be sure we got up in time to walk over to Caltech for the end of mission. We dressed and poured coffee into ourselves, made sure we had our badges, and got out the door in plenty of time to arrive before 04:00, the official start of the event and NASA TV coverage.

Walking up to Beckman Auditorium (aka the wedding cake) from the south.

Me with the big screen saying “Cassini Grand Finale”.

X-band and S-band signals still going strong.

Me and [personal profile] emelbe.

Me and Young Postdoc (Greg).

Even after 04:00 there was a lot of milling around and either avoiding or standing in front of camera crews, depending on one’s proclivities. We alternated between watching the giant screens in front of our assigned seating and poking our phones, sending messages and photos to friends, family and social media. People tried to sit down, but mostly failed at remaining in their seats until about ten minutes before the final plunge.

I tried to stay put, but for some reason I couldn’t sit down during the final moments. I went and stood with my colleague Adam and watched nervously as the flight team sounded off. Finally NASA TV went to focus on the X- and S-band signals (I was genuinely worried they were going to miss it if they didn’t stop faffing around with the cameras). We watched as first the X- and then the S-band signals dipped, wavered and disappeared as the spacecraft began to tumble into Saturn’s atmosphere. The S-band came back for a couple of seconds as the antenna randomly pointed Earthward briefly, and then she was gone.

Aseel (whom I’ve been hearing on the phone for the past eleven years), said that radio science confirmed loss of X-ray and Sierra band signals, and everyone spontaneously went silent.

X-band signal gone.

And now S-band too.

Julie confirmed the time of LoS. And Earl announced the official end of the Cassini mission. And then there might have been something in my eye.

No, definitely not. It’s something in your eye.

Cassini’s gone silent in the DSN Eyes application.

The RPWS team doing live data analysis.

My boss on the big screen talking about MAG’s discovery of Enceladus’ plumes.

Yes, those plumes. The yellow shaded bits are the magnetic field lines, which we measured bending around the plumes.

The “young” Imperial crew. (Greg, me, Adam)

Emma and Marcia + her husband (who doesn't work on Cassini) with the MAG and other MAPS team flags.

I don’t actually remember the ensuing hour very well. I remember my boss hugging me before she left for JPL, and sitting down for a while and having a snack because I was finally hungry. Eventually we were called into the “wedding cake” (Beckman Auditorium) to watch the hour-long press conference happening at JPL. There was a lot of pontificating. There were some overly polished speeches. But then Julie (spacecraft operations manager) gave hers, and it was given in her usual rambling, friendly, expository style, completely sincere and wonderful, and that set me off again with the not-crying.

Eventually it was over and we filed outside to find that it was daylight and we were all really hungry. One of the RPWS guys suggested we head over to Du-pars for pancakes, which was pure genius. So we did that. Sadly they couldn’t serve us mimosas because the bar didn’t open until 10 AM (it was 07:30), so we made do with orange juice and coffee.

The MAG + RPWS crews wait for pancakes.


Emma is not sure how she’s going to consume five slices of French toast.

We walked home and I fell on the bed and was dead to the world for half an hour, and then I woke up and wrote this.

This entry was originally posted at http://nanila.dreamwidth.org/1105153.html. The titration count is at comment count unavailable.0 pKa.

[User Picture]From: land_girl
2017-09-16 06:43 (UTC)
This has been an extraordinary, and emotional, insight into something really fascinating. Thank you so much for posting and letting us see this.

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[User Picture]From: nanila
2017-09-22 13:06 (UTC)
Thanks for reading it. It was important to me to record it while it was happening, because I knew there'd be no time to reflect on it once I returned home. There's too much work to be getting on with now!
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[User Picture]From: davesmusictank
2017-09-16 10:41 (UTC)
Thanks for posting this. Cassini was awesome.
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2017-09-22 13:08 (UTC)
It was! And it still has a lot more to give, since Cassini sent home every bit of data that the instrument teams wanted right up until it died its fiery death in the skies of Saturn. It'll take a little (maybe a lot of) time to understand what it means.
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