I’ve said many times that working at JPL is a truly fantabulous thing for me. I’ve been here for just over two years now and I still sometimes feel the need to pinch my arm and confirm, yes, it is real. It still feels like I’ve only been here a couple of months.

So yes, working here is terribly exciting for me. But it can also be sobering.

The lobby of the building in which I work has been home to a few exhibits. A scale model of the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter recently graced the lobby and, until this morning, a scale model of the Phoenix sat in the roped off area, gold foil glinting in fluorescent lighting. This morning the Phoenix exhibit was removed and a new one took its place: the Shuttle Columbia Safety Exhibit, which is not open to the public but has been touring the various NASA space centers.

I took a walk around the exhibit, looking at the nine pieces of the Columbia that were displayed in the case – some pieces fairly large, others on the smallish side. Taking in the remnants of that disaster, there in front of me, reminded me that, no matter how thrilled I am about my workplace, there are very real dangers in what many people in the space business do. Reading the names of those killed in the explosion, along with the victims of Apollo 1 and the Challenger and feeling the faint rise of tears in my eyes made those dangers fresh again, however briefly.

I wish I could share photos of the exhibit, but NASA has requested that we not do so, to honor the families of the Columbia crew and I will honor that request. But pictures aren’t needed to remember.

Official accounts of the exhibit: Reid Center and Johnson Center.

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  1. I think I spent a full 20 years of my life wanting to work for your employer. I went to university, taking physics and then astrophysics before I realized that only the very best of the best are hired and, hey, I think highly of myself but I’m ultimately a realist.

    Enjoy JPL for me, huh?


  2. I’m enjoying JPL enough for you, bstewart, and everyone else.

    If the very best of the best are hired, then why am I here?

    Actually, I do have a pretty high opinion of myself, but it helps that I’m here as a secretary and not a scientist or engineer (never would have made it then) and that a dear friend who managed to finagle his way in as first a secretary, then as a astrophysics student/baby scientist gave me the info for a temp company that did business with JPL. I actually have very little secretarial background and have never been an executive assistant before, but my bosses and I get along great and they seem to like my work (especially the BigBoss, who is one of those tough yet fair types), so here I still am, two years later.

    Which is why I’m still pinching myself…


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