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.