B a r b a r a  T h o m p s o n
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
March 9, 1999
Rockets Run on Email

    2:30-4:30 pm: During this period, I also drop off some purchasing information to our Resources Analyst, and phone people to begin accumulating some information that we need for a funds transfer to the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington DC. They work with us on the rocket, and they haven't received their money for the work yet! I want to make sure they get paid as soon as possible, so they'll want to continue working with us on projects!

4:30 pm: Sarah calls-she's been through several interviews, but is finding the whole experience very exhausting. It's hard to smile into a camera and brightly answer questions over and over again. It's even harder to answer questions from a reporter or someone else who doesn't do science for a living. I went through four years of college, another four years of graduate school, and three years of work here at Goddard to learn what I do. Then they want you to sum it up in two sentences! If you go more than two sentences, the viewer might get bored. So instead of "really" answering the question the way you'd normally do it (with a long discussion and a lot of pointing to figures and using very intricate jargon), you have to come up with ways of explaining things so other people can understand 11 years of work! It's a very difficult thing, and you have to be able to think very quickly! Fortunately, there are people who can do this, because it's important that the public understand the research we're doing and why it's vital. But it's difficult when you can't use your normal jargon and vocabulary.

Sarah wants to meet for dinner tonight, to get away from the cameras and finally relax and talk about her experience-I'm glad I get to see her again! While I'm on the phone with Sarah, I mention that another paper we've worked on is being published and I'm in the process of having Goddard pay for the publication costs. Then I remember about the people in England who are working on their television program-I tell her that the video I send them will include some movies of a computer simulation she's done. As a favor to the people in England, I get her permission to show the models, so they don't have to go through the trouble of contacting her. I then phone a few people we work with and tell them we're meeting Sarah for dinner at 6:45, and then send off an e-mail to England telling them that they have "official permission" to use Sarah's simulations and the SOHO data in their TV show. Of course, we're flattered they want to use it! However, they need permission for legal purposes.

4:45-6:30 pm: I spend the remainder of the day working on minor tasks. An Italian colleague of mine has sent an e-mail asking for some data from an eruption we've observed. I process the data. Another researcher (this one is from Argentina) is interested in a series up eruptions-he studies the effect of these eruptions on Earth. He wants to understand the solar data, and he wonders where on the Sun was the source of these eruptions. I produce two personal web pages for him with all of the data on it, and I add a detailed description of the observations.

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