"What a Rush!"

Bridget Landry - July 4, 1997
Deputy Uplink Systems Engineer
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California

    Could it possibly have gone any better (with the exception of not deploying the rover)? Right up to the end, there were people (some of them at NASA Headquarters!) who honestly believed we'd be a smoking hole in the ground by now! Not only did we exceed THEIR expectations, we are vastly exceeding even our own wildest hopes. Contact with the spacecraft all the way to the ground. Contact immediately after we rolled to a stop. Landing on the base petal. Only 2 degrees of tilt. The high-gain antenna pointing within 1 degree of Earth.

If you wrote a story with this as a plot, no one would believe it. We have received congratulations from the immediate world, from big wigs to just plain folks. I guess we weren't too wrong when we felt recently that the eyes of the world were on us.

I missed most of the excitement, however, except via the replays. Since I was scheduled to start work at 11 p.m. that night, I was actually sleeping when we landed and when we got the first data from the spacecraft. Made me feel like a bit of an outsider--I know all the people in those clips, all those ecstatic folks, hugging and laughing and crying, but I wasn't there to share it. Something bittersweet about the fact that, as a member of the team, I was unable to participate as fully as if I had been a complete spectator. Even though I knew this would happen, it's still not what I expected. Will have to think about it some more.


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