The possible consequences rolled over me in nauseating waves. I may have just created a $500M piece of scrap. With only two weeks until the spacecraft was delivered for launch operations, THERE WAS NO TIME to recover from a big problem. I was instantly aware that there may be only one rover launched to Mars on this synodic cycle. And my hands were holding the still-warm rover murder weapon.
I had learned from countless experiences in this and other projects that bad news doesn’t get better with age so I immediately keyed the mic on my headset and told Leo, the test conductor running the other testing in parallel, what had just happened. His response twisted the knife in my chest. ‘Yeah, we seem to have lost all spacecraft telemetry just a bit ago.’ NOT a good sign.
Everyone in my vicinity was listening in on the voice loop on their headsets, and off-mic, John unleashed a string of profanities about me that could serve as an advanced tutorial for even the most seasoned sailors. The team immediately ran the spacecraft’s emergency shutdown procedure and we were instructed to leave the cleanroom for what would probably be a damage assessment briefing.