Hooray to the JWST team

This is the best time I can think of to write about my late husband Bob and his work as a rocket scientist.

He began his career working on the development of the US Air Force’s Minuteman III MIRV ballistic missile weapon system, serving as the Manager of Systems Engineering and Test for the Minuteman Program Office in charge of the testing of the weapon system.

Other management work included the development of real-time software for the Hard-site Defense system, a US Army development of an operational anti-ballistic missile system. This assignment included almost two years in residence at the Kwajalein atoll engaged in live testing of the radar and software product against live Minuteman III launches from Vandenberg Air Force Base in CA. In his work in aerospace, he served as the Systems Engineering & Integration Manager for the NASA AXAF (Chandra) x-ray telescope spacecraft and Program Manager for the ROCSAT satellite program for the Republic of China on Taiwan, which entailed training the Taiwanese engineers to build their own satellite. This work required him to visit Taiwan fifteen times.

When he retired he was called upon as a consultant and worked for over twenty years managing numerous very large proposals for Northrop Grumman/TRW – the company he hired into in 1961. These included the National Polar-Orbiting Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS), and Jupiter Icy-moons Orbiter (JIMO) which sought to find life in those moons. The sum of the winning bids for the list of proposals he managed is nearly nine billion dollars.

However, the proposal he managed that we can all relate to now was the James Webb Space Telescope. Its success is evidenced by the trove of spectacular images of nebulae and distant galaxies. As some say, JWST is a new window into the history of our universe. And my Bob as the proposal manager started all that.

As a little aside, Bob and I worked on several proposals together but unfortunately not the one for JWST. My job was to teach engineers how to write, do some technical writing and editing, and make sure all schedule milestones were met. And since I was in the room – all proposal writers and support people worked together in large windowless bays for security sake – I witnessed Bob’s style. He’d conduct a morning meeting every day, and the entire team had to attend and be there for his opening remarks. These could be a Shakespearian quote, a poem by Keats or Yeats, or a saying by one of his favorites, Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe: “Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.”

He’d also present the daily stoplight chart at these meetings – the one that showed the status of everyone’s work section by section. The goal was to finish the work, on time, and have your section marked green. One guy stood in the back and remarked almost every day, “It isn’t easy being green.” But even he got his work done so our proposals could be out on time.

Bob would have loved the hoopla and attention his work is getting now. I’m sorry he had to miss it.




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