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Launch Memories

Posted on August 12, 2021

'Growing Up' with Parker Solar Probe

Phyllis Whittlesey

Research Scientist

University of California, Berkeley

I had the privilege of joining the Parker Solar Probe team (back when it was “Solar Probe Plus”) in August 2011, as I started graduate school, and launch was the first month after I completed my postdoc -- so in a way, I grew up as a scientist with this mission.

I knew that Parker Solar Probe was going to be a special mission even as a fresh Ph.D. student, but what I didn’t anticipate was that it was equally remarkable in its design, technical challenges and scientific goals as it was for the people designing and overcoming those technical challenges. Parker Solar Probe will always be the landmark mission for those of us who built this special spacecraft, and the fact that it breaks speed and distance records at nearly every encounter seems only fitting for such a remarkable mission, both pre- and post-launch. I look forward to seeing the impact that this mission has on heliophysics for decades to come.

Phyllis Whittlesey with Parker Solar Probe, as the spacecraft is prepped for launch at the Astrotech processing facility near Kennedy Space Center, Florida.