[ExI] Dark doubts

Gregory Jones spike66 at att.net
Fri Jun 18 06:08:16 UTC 2010

--- On Thu, 6/17/10, The Avantguardian <avantguardian2020 at yahoo.com> wrote:
I had no idea you were involved in COBE, Spike. Much respect. I had no idea you were involved in COBE, Spike. Much respect. 

Waaait, Avant, do let me clarify.  I was involved with COBE only as a weight and balance metrologist, not as one of the designers.  But I have a good COBE story for you.
COBE was running behind after a redesign.  The people who always get rushed at the end when the program is out of money and out of calendar are the test engineers.  So we needed to get an all-up vehicle center of gravity, a two transverse axis measurement, since COBE was a spinner (a slow spinner, about a rev per minute.)  I designed the test setup, and convinced the management we could pick off a third axis by tilting the entire spacecraft slightly, then recording the differences in weights measured by the three load cells, then calculating the longitudinal axis CG geometrically.  They didn't like the idea of tilting the thing, sounded dangerous, but I assured them to could be done safely, and they were out of money and calendar to do it the right way, so they allowed me to do it my way.
On the day of the test, I had the management sign overtime permits for all the technicians, for I expected that to be a looong day, a long day indeed, and I wanted to git-r-dun that day, because we wanted to get the bird down to Vandenberg for launch integration into a Delta forthwith, trying to make up schedule.
The day of the measurement, these techs were FLYING!  I never saw them so focused, or work so fast.  I was delighted of course.  That afternoon, they seemed to get ever more intense.  I said, "Guys, there is no need to rush.  I have overtime permits for everyone here."  The tech lead said "Overtime my ass!  We are trying to get this bird out of here so we can go watch the game!"  I said "What game?"  Everything came to a stop, they all stared.  "The world series, third game.  Baseball.  Have you ever heard of the SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS or the OAKLAND RAIDERS?  Spike, what planet are you from?"  Me, "Oh well, I don't read the sports pages.  Big game, huh?"  They, "Ahhhh, yes, big game.  Lets MOVE boys!"
I thought that job would take us until about 7 or 8 that evening if all went well, but we finished by 3pm, the techs bolted, the Air Force guys were right there, and spirited the bird off to Moffett Field.  I signed all the inspection papers, packed up my gear, went back to my office, saw the Charlie 130 climbing out from Moffett just as I arrived in the parking lot to my office at 5 pm.  I went in, sat down, started writing the metrology report.  Just then, the earthquake hit, the Loma Prieta catastrophe.  
That was October 17, 1989.  Had not the world series been going on that day, the technicians would have proceeded at their normal pace, and COBE would have been perched on three flimsy bipods when the Loma Prieta quake hit.  The shaking was intense enough, the bird would have ended in a smoldering ruin on the cleanroom floor.  My career would have ended in smoldering ruin on the cleanroom floor.  My career went on for another 20 years, all because of a baseball game.
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