You’ve probably seen many other people pointing to this New York Times article this week, but I couldn’t help myself. Though as a whole the article was bittersweet I love to learn about cool efficiency tweaks like this one:
Turning the heaters off for a while is the safest way to get enough power to run the instruments, but the lower the overall wattage drops, the faster parts will freeze. One of the team’s most valuable insights so far: Spinning the wheels of an eight-track tape recorder — the spacecrafts’ only data-storage option — generates a bit of additional heat.
The flight crew’s sense of duty is inspiring.
Over decades, the crew members who have remained have forgone promotions, the lure of nearby Silicon Valley and, more recently, retirement, to stay with the spacecraft.
It’s sad to me that engineers working on such a long term mission weren’t recognized the same way people who moved to other missions apparently were. I strongly believe in the value of long-term research efforts and this is yet another sign that our society and government don’t share this sentiment. Difficulty in attracting new talent to the team is hard to come to terms with as well.
NASA funding, which peaked during the Apollo program in the 1960s, has dwindled, making it next to impossible to recruit young computer-science majors away from the likes of Google and Facebook.
There are more factors to this than the relative level of NASA’s funding. For example, pure computer-science majors maybe wouldn’t be the best fit for a team like this. I wonder, though, for how many young people working in the tech industry is a higher priority than working for NASA. It’s hard to imagine another government agency with such broad appeal—so what hope is there for other agencies that so badly need an influx of fresh, diverse and dedicated workers? I have a feeling that the efforts of the current administration to reduce the size of the federal workforce aren’t helping.