Russian Soyuz spacecraft
“The best thing for being sad,” replied Merlin, beginning to puff and blow, “is to learn something. That’s the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then — to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting. Learning is the only thing for you. Look what a lot of things there are to learn.”
I’ve never read TH White’s The Once and Future King, but I came across this quote years ago and it’s stuck with me ever since. It tends to pop into my head whenever I find myself faced with needing to learn a lot of stuff in a little bit of time — in other words, times like RIGHT NOW.
So I have a new job! It actually started last week, but held off on writing about it until all the paperwork was signed. I’m going “on rotation,” as they call it here, to work as a Visiting Vehicle Safety Engineer for Russian vehicles going to and from the International Space Station. I’ve always been a shuttle person, so I’ll be learning a LOT of new things — how the Russian vehicles operate, how the ISS interacts with them, how ISS operations work, and how the NASA safety process works. I’m excited, but also totally intimidated at the moment. I’ve been added to at least a dozen various email distributions over the past week, and the amount of email traffic and information contained within is completely overwhelming. I need to come up with a way of organizing things, and FAST, before I drown under the flow of information.
Russian Progress spacecraft
What the “rotation” part of the job means is that I’m not actually leaving my current organization. While I work on Russian vehicles, I will still support shuttle operations from Mission Control — including next week’s STS-133 mission, since I’ve been working on it for months as the Lead Rendezvous Officer. It’s a cool situation, and for me it’s the best of BOTH worlds — I still get to work console, which is the most fun part of being a flight controller, but I also get to do all this new stuff! The rotation is scheduled to last for one year. Often, people who go on rotations end up converting to the new organization full-time, but I don’t know if that’s in the cards for me or not (although most of my coworkers are acting like it is). As far as I know, I’ll be back in my current division at the end of next year. In the meantime, I’m excited to have the opportunity to do something new for a while!
p.s. I think the reason the quote sticks out is that it reminds me of my dad, whose advice to seemingly any problem is usually something like “you should take a math class, you know, it’s always good to learn some more math.” Love you Dad!