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July 20th, 2021

Solidarity

I had a full day today in the JWST Mission Operations Center, working on an automated performance testing program (‘program’, not as in software but as in “a set of related measures or activities with a particular long-term aim.” It’s very tedious because it’s running through the same set of operations over and over and over and over and…so on… But this is necessary to insure the MOC systems can handle the stress of launch and commissioning, and also to make sure that the small fixes and updates to the systems haven’t broken anything that Was working previously.

As I said…tedious. And I have other things on my plate at work that I need to attend to. But for various reasons I won’t go into here, these tests needed to be done this week. It is Important to do these tests at this time. So I stay on it. Everything we do now is critical to moving us toward launch, and after that, commissioning. Then we have a space telescope that will show us amazing things about the early universe, and maybe even find life on nearby planets. I was in on Monday…I’ll be working this through Thursday at least. I want to see this thing through to launch (still scheduled for the end of October), but I am counting down the weeks until I retire. I have other things I want to do with my life, before I run out of life.

I come home, tired…very tired. I’m feeling my age more now. There’s a Hemingway quote about going broke that maps very well to getting old: gradually, and then suddenly. Yeah. That. I make some dinner…a frozen package thing from the chest freezer because I am too tired even to think now. I just want to sleep. It’s the routine repetitive work that drags me down.

I turn on the TV. Smithsonian channel is running stuff about the Apollo moon landing. Oh yeah…that was today. 52 years ago. I remember watching it raptly on the black and white vacuum tube TV in our 1969 garden apartment living room. I even took a few snapshots of the TV screen while it was happening. There were no home video recorders in 1969.

I remember how it felt, I remember how amazing it all was. There really was a great big beautiful tomorrow shining at the end of every day back then. Everything was possible. I watched them put human footprints on the moon.

And then I realize I spent the day today working in the JWST MOC and I hadn’t even remembered today was the anniversary the entire time I was in there. I was busy. I had a job to do. Solidarity reaches across the decades and taps me on the shoulder. I’m really here now. I’m really part of all this. It’s about time I started believing it. I don’t think 15 year old me would have figured there was where I would be in 52 years. Certainly certain maternal family members would never have believed it. I should really stop carrying that weight around with me. I did my job, and I’ll get back to it tomorrow.

And I will feel a little less old and tired…

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