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Launch Memories

Posted on August 12, 2021

The People Behind the Mission

Betsy Congdon

Thermal Protection System Lead Engineer

Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory

My favorite pictures of hardware and spacecraft are the ones with people in them. While a spacecraft is made up of nuts, bolts, metal, wire and circuit boards, it is really made by people. The people who machined the parts, stayed late night after night to do systems testing, worked weekends to form the Thermal Protection System into the perfect shape to protect the spacecraft, and the families that sacrificed to make all that possible. By launch day, I had been working on Parker Solar Probe for a little over 10 years. I had met so many fantastic people along the way. So as that rocket left the ground, I thought of all those people and was awed at what people can do as a team.

The whole experience was very emotional. Parker Solar Probe was the first launch where I had hardware atop the rocket. Ever since then, every launch I see, I think of all the people who worked so hard to make it possible.

Parker Solar Probe team members Kelles Gordge, Al Saunders, Neal Bachtell, Betsy Congdon, Jennifer Fischer, Tony Ahan, Shelly Conkey, Luke Becker and Daniel Eby celebrate the installation of the spacecraft’s Thermal Protection System at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory.

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