Wednesday April 15th 2009. Launch -21 days.


Three weeks to go. As Bette Davis once said on screen “so much to do, so little time to do it”. We are really in great shape, but that just leads us to want to do even better. Life is getting frenetic


Today has been a typical example. I was involved in two telecons: the first a “quickie” (only 45 minutes) connecting to three external centres in the morning and then a major set-piece telecon in the afternoon that was our first planning meeting for real observations after launch. It started at 1pm, after a very quick lunch and ended at a quarter to six, at which point our heads were spinning with hour after hour of highly specialist, technical material. We should have then had a short break and started a further Videocon, but once it was obvious that we would not finish until very late we decided to postpone it until tomorrow. Even so, one of my colleagues in the long meeting still had been in four telecons in all today. In the end, after a futile attempt to continue working, I decided to give up and use the ride home to clear my head a bit. Fortunately the ride home was more comfortable than the ride to work. It had been bitterly cold, with a frigid breeze blowing persistent drizzle into my face until, in the last half kilometre it started to rain hard.


Once I got home and had relaxed and eaten it was time to work on the Test Plan for next week’s tests. This meant several hours of digging through emails for inputs and formatting them into something consistent and coherent. In the end the job was finished around 3am and the plan emailed out so that everyone would have it first thing in the morning. Now, people will have a chance to revise their texts and, in some cases, update them by Friday so, in all probability, on Friday night I will have to go through all this again. As the tests start on Monday, even sending the final plan out on Friday night is pushing it. However, the chances of getting revised text to put in the document before the end of Friday afternoon is so slim that there is no point in setting an earlier deadline.


Last night I had been watching the extended version of “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”. It is a wonderful film, but I noticed a horrible continuity lapse that I had never previously spotted. When Roy Neary and his follow contactees are heading up Devils Tower to the landing site for the aliens, the sky suddenly goes from being heavy overcast, to broken cirrocumulus, to perfectly clear in, supposedly, a very short space of time. Despite clearly seeing a dreadful, heavy sky as the contactees set off up the mountain, the MC on the landing strip states at sunset “what a beautiful evening”. Does the Wyoming weather change so fast??? Obviously ET had a good weather prediction and was not put off by the bad conditions in late afternoon! [In fact, what really happened was that the chase scene up the Devils Tower had to be filmed over several days to get a consistent light level and only a few minutes were suitable for filming each day – Steven Spielberg went to great lengths to get the right continuity in the light level as the dusk fell, totally ignoring the fact that the cloud cover would be different on different days and would give bad continuity anyway! The film’s message was “watch the skies”, but he didn’t do it himself.]


Mystery of the day: supposedly I have been promoted and am now a Senior Engineer (someone must be turning in his grave at the thought). However, the contracts department has said nothing and my profile in the computer gives no hint of a change in my status. There is a danger that there may have been an administrative mix-up and, if so, the Boss warns me that there may not be a solution (it’s not his mix-up and he would be powerless to resolve the matter because it is a matter of an new contract at the old status having been signed by Human Resources and superseding the intended new contract at the new status… and if you can understand this, please explain it to me, because I only have a Ph.D in Astrophysics and am not qualified for this kind of thing). Your mission Jim, should you choose to accept it, is to find out what the deleted is going on!