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Launch Memories

Posted on August 12, 2021

My Parker Solar Probe 'Family'

David Malaspina

Parker Solar Probe Science Team Co-investigator

University of Colorado, Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics

Parker Solar Probe has been a defining experience in my career and in my life. I began work on the mission in 2009, helping to write the FIELDS instrument proposal when I was a graduate student. Over the next nine years, as I worked on the design and construction of FIELDS flight hardware, I received my Ph.D., moved through a postdoc and took a research scientist position. My wife and I married and my two daughters were born. At the same time, my friends and colleagues working on Parker Solar Probe grew into another kind of family. By Aug. 12, 2018, one of my daughters was old enough to stay awake through the 3:30 a.m. launch.

In 2021, as Parker Solar Probe approached its ninth perihelion pass, I found myself in elementary school classrooms talking about exploring our closest star using this amazing spacecraft. While many students (and teachers) are fascinated by the mission and how close it has come to the Sun, my daughters have heard about this mission their whole lives. They were growing up at the same time that Parker Solar Probe grew from engineering drawings, to real hardware, to a flight-ready mission, and now to returning astounding scientific results.

I hope that my daughters’ interactions with this mission and with my “Solar Probe family” has taught them how a diverse and dedicated team can work together to accomplish something amazing, like traveling so close to Sun for the first time. I hope that Parker Solar Probe’s journey from idea to operating mission inspires them, in their own life journeys, to challenge themselves to reach beyond what they already know about the world around them.

While his Parker Solar Probe family prepared for launch, David Malaspina’s real family took in the wonders of exploration at Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

Next: Sharing the Parker Story »