“My rockets always blow up”
“My rockets always blow up…until they don’t.”
I say this all the time. It’s representative of the mindset I have developed to protect myself against the possibility of a catastrophic failure on launch. When you spend 5 to 15 years of your life working toward the launch of a single spacecraft/instrument, a failure just before the culmination of your work can be devastating. To combat this, I have developed a very simple defense mechanism. I assume they will ALL fail. That way if they do, then it was to be expected. If they don’t, then I have had a very good day.
Thankfully, I have been pleasantly surprised on all three launches where I worked mission operations. I attribute this partly to the incredible reliability of the launch vehicle they all used, the Boeing Delta II. If you want to see what a typical Delta II launch looks like, check this video (launch is at about 2:37). Sadly, this launcher has been discontinued, and there are only a few more in the inventory. That’s not to say that the Delta II hasn’t failed. While supporting pre-launch operations on my last mission, the operations team repeatedly viewed this video. As you can see, I am not the only person who ascribes to this method of coping.
Sometimes missions do fail. It’s heartbreaking to us who work so hard to bring these missions to fruition. So, if sometimes it seems like I’m a bit pessimistic, please forgive me. It’s all part of the job…