[personal profile] emelbe and I set our alarms for 02:30 and 02:35 respectively, just to be sure we got up in time to walk over to Caltech for the end of mission. We dressed and poured coffee into ourselves, made sure we had our badges, and got out the door in plenty of time to arrive before 04:00, the official start of the event and NASA TV coverage.

Walking up to Beckman Auditorium (aka the wedding cake) from the south.

Me with the big screen saying “Cassini Grand Finale”.

X-band and S-band signals still going strong.

Me and [personal profile] emelbe.

Me and Young Postdoc (Greg).

Even after 04:00 there was a lot of milling around and either avoiding or standing in front of camera crews, depending on one’s proclivities. We alternated between watching the giant screens in front of our assigned seating and poking our phones, sending messages and photos to friends, family and social media. People tried to sit down, but mostly failed at remaining in their seats until about ten minutes before the final plunge.

I tried to stay put, but for some reason I couldn’t sit down during the final moments. I went and stood with my colleague Adam and watched nervously as the flight team sounded off. Finally NASA TV went to focus on the X- and S-band signals (I was genuinely worried they were going to miss it if they didn’t stop faffing around with the cameras). We watched as first the X- and then the S-band signals dipped, wavered and disappeared as the spacecraft began to tumble into Saturn’s atmosphere. The S-band came back for a couple of seconds as the antenna randomly pointed Earthward briefly, and then she was gone.

Aseel (whom I’ve been hearing on the phone for the past eleven years), said that radio science confirmed loss of X-ray and Sierra band signals, and everyone spontaneously went silent.

X-band signal gone.

And now S-band too.

Julie confirmed the time of LoS. And Earl announced the official end of the Cassini mission. And then there might have been something in my eye.

No, definitely not. It’s something in your eye.

Cassini’s gone silent in the DSN Eyes application.

The RPWS team doing live data analysis.

My boss on the big screen talking about MAG’s discovery of Enceladus’ plumes.

Yes, those plumes. The yellow shaded bits are the magnetic field lines, which we measured bending around the plumes.

The “young” Imperial crew. (Greg, me, Adam)

Emma and Marcia + her husband (who doesn't work on Cassini) with the MAG and other MAPS team flags.

I don’t actually remember the ensuing hour very well. I remember my boss hugging me before she left for JPL, and sitting down for a while and having a snack because I was finally hungry. Eventually we were called into the “wedding cake” (Beckman Auditorium) to watch the hour-long press conference happening at JPL. There was a lot of pontificating. There were some overly polished speeches. But then Julie (spacecraft operations manager) gave hers, and it was given in her usual rambling, friendly, expository style, completely sincere and wonderful, and that set me off again with the not-crying.

Eventually it was over and we filed outside to find that it was daylight and we were all really hungry. One of the RPWS guys suggested we head over to Du-pars for pancakes, which was pure genius. So we did that. Sadly they couldn’t serve us mimosas because the bar didn’t open until 10 AM (it was 07:30), so we made do with orange juice and coffee.

The MAG + RPWS crews wait for pancakes.


Emma is not sure how she’s going to consume five slices of French toast.

We walked home and I fell on the bed and was dead to the world for half an hour, and then I woke up and wrote this.
lark_ascends: Blue and purple dragonfly, green background (Default)

From: [personal profile] lark_ascends

Long day yesterday. We had an amazing time with our social media peeps, and our hashtag was in the top 5 trending in Australia last night on twitter. Go us. Check it out for some amazing photos of the antennas at work - #CassiniAus

Was thinking about you. Aseel came out to the site earlier in the year (late last year?) for the last radio science experiment with Titan. She was lovely. So great seeing her, and Linda and Earl and Julie on the broadcast knowing that I had met them in person.
ljravengirl: (Default)

From: [personal profile] ljravengirl

Aw, so so bittersweet! Yeah it's in my eye, too, but it's totally in YOUR eye!
Love love love these posts so much, and congratulations on an historic job WELL DONE. Success and knowledge ACHIEVED.
ironed_orchid: pin up girl reading kant (Default)

From: [personal profile] ironed_orchid

I'm so glad you were all able to be in one place and share the experience together.

kotturinn: (Default)

From: [personal profile] kotturinn

Thank you for letting us share a very special occasion.
slemslempike: (Default)

From: [personal profile] slemslempike

I have so enjoyed reading these posts about the end of mission, and felt very excited at knowing someone so closely involved when Cassini has popped up on my twitter feed etc.
gwendraith: (shooting star stonehenge)

From: [personal profile] gwendraith

A great but bittersweet experience, very emotional. Thank you for sharing it all with us.
mysterysquid: (Default)

From: [personal profile] mysterysquid

Dusty here, isn't it? :\

I do love the "VGR2" At Canberra though. Still trucking... :)

sorchasilver: (Saturn Rings)

From: [personal profile] sorchasilver

Thank you so much for sharing your view of this ever, it's been fascinating to see it all.
quoththeravyn: El Greco style Don Quixote pic from xkcd.com (Default)

From: [personal profile] quoththeravyn

It seems unfair that we were just coming online for an entirely routine (after a week of radiation storms!) communications pass, as you were finishing up.

Best tweet of the day was from another mission team promising to do their grand finale in the daylight, earth-recieved-time.

And, um, congratulations and condolences.

I'm reminded of a shuttle mission we had an instrument on, all buttoned up and ready to come home, and then the landing was waived off for a day for weather. I went to the control room at the usual time. I think the only other person there was a janitor. The PI went ahead with the party. "I said we'd have a landing party," he said, outside the small building with the hotel's meeting room. "And there's the landing," pointing up at a balcony.
brainwane: My smiling face, including a small gold bindi (Default)

From: [personal profile] brainwane

I am so glad you got to commune with colleagues for this.
silveradept: A kodama with a trombone. The trombone is playing music, even though it is held in a rest position (Default)

From: [personal profile] silveradept

It's sad to see it go, but it looks like a good end.
paw_prints: (Default)

From: [personal profile] paw_prints

Just catching up on your entries. Thoroughly enjoyed reading all of your instalments about this very special occasion. What an amazing thing to be a part of Nanila! I can quite understand what a roller coaster of emotions this must be for you, and everyone involved.
Edited Date: 2017-09-18 09:05 am (UTC)
wohali: photograph of Joan (Default)

From: [personal profile] wohali

This has been going through my head every time I read one of these posts. Guess I'm showing my age, here...

pheloniusfriar: (Default)

From: [personal profile] pheloniusfriar

Crap, I got verklempt just reading that. So much of one's life goes into these things, and then it's over and we have to move on.