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The Mission by David W Brown

The Mission by David W Brown

Author:David W Brown [Brown, David W]
Language: eng
Format: epub
ISBN: 9780062655875
Google: ZGbGDwAAQBAJ
Publisher: Custom House
Published: 2021-01-26T00:00:00+00:00


Chapter 9

Grand Theft Orbiter

AND JUST LIKE THAT, KARLA CLARK WAS OUT.

The decade she had spent on the Europa problem—her management of a dozen Europa mission studies—more than anyone else on Earth—her fathomless insights on the Jovian radiation belt and survival therein—none of that mattered in the end.

Jet Propulsion Laboratory wanted a mission that NASA would buy, and Karla had delivered. Most of the Europa team thought she would be made project manager once the thing went forward. Karla knew better. The reality at JPL was that she did not yet have the experience on paper necessary to be made manager of a project that size. For a multibillion-dollar mission, lab leadership would typically put in place someone who had delivered a spacecraft in at least the Discovery or New Frontiers class, or their Mars equivalents. But it was the same problem planetary scientists faced when the four-year-leadership mandate came down from headquarters. The dearth of missions overall and the mostly male makeup of the lab meant that Karla never had hope—not really—of ever managing such missions.313 So it was unclear even to her what would happen—what her role would be—once the study became a “pre-project,” and later, once it reached the developmental milestone called Key Decision Point A, a formal project.

It was the outright hostility by management that took her aback, however.

Managers in the Solar System Exploration Directorate, where she worked, came and went as if by custom, and once the shootout ended, Jupiter Europa Orbiter the last spacecraft standing, the management merry-go-round happened to stop with an aerospace engineer named Keyur Patel, who was previously project manager on the Discovery-class Dawn mission to the dwarf planet Ceres. He had been with the lab for twenty-three years by then—about as long as Karla—and the two had history. Karla didn’t respect him as a manager or engineer, and she was pretty sure he didn’t respect her, either. It was obvious right away to Karla—and just about everyone else, if the rumor mill was to be believed—that Keyur wanted to be the project manager for this mission. And who didn’t? The first spacecraft ever to orbit a moon other than that of Earth? The first spacecraft to orbit so deeply and for so long and lavishly in the Jovian radiation belt, second only to the interior of the sun as the most dangerous place a spacecraft could travel? The spacecraft likely to determine the habitability of an ocean world?

Keyur didn’t just take the job, though; it was so much more insulting than that, Karla felt. As the study pivoted to a pre-project posture, he started staffing the team without consulting Karla, who, as study lead, was still in charge. Worse yet, if such a thing were possible, she didn’t even know many members now under her aegis, and after reviewing their credentials was unconvinced that they were a good fit for the team. Karla had learned project management from John Casani himself. She knew how to build a team, and this was not it.



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