Longreads

Shannon Stirone | LongreadsMarch 2018 | 22 minutes (5,546 words)

The power has just gone out in mission control. I look to Jim McClure, operations manager at the Space Flight Operations Facility, and he assures me that everything is fine. A power outage like this hasn’t happened at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in nearly eight years, and while it’s only been out for a few seconds, the Deep Space Network is disconnected and NASA has temporarily lost contact with Cassini, the nearly 20-year-old space probe in orbit around Saturn, as well as all spacecraft beyond the moon.

We’re standing in JPL’s mission control, known simply as the Dark Room to those who work here. Five men and women are glued to their screens, the artificial pink-and-white glow highlighting their faces. I’ve been here twice before, but I have never seen this many people running the consoles. The operators…

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