(Episode 76) Cindy Healy.

"While working on the Mars Pathfinder mission at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, I came to a fork in the road. It was a moment when I had to decide whether to move out of my comfort zone and take a risk. NASA was putting together a 25-person launch team that would temporarily move from California to Florida near the Kennedy Space Center. All of my best buddies were going to be on this team. I knew it was going to be a “work hard, play hard” scenario, and I really wanted to go. Up until that point I had been working as the lead for the simulation software that was used to prepare for the mission. At one point, a colleague and I were tasked with fixing the flight simulation code, including the star scanner—the eyeball of the spacecraft. The flight simulation code fakes out the spacecraft so it thinks it’s flying to Mars when it’s really sitting in the lab in Pasadena. The work had fallen nine months behind schedule, and my teammate Miguel and I had been given eight weeks to complete the code. Neither of us had ever written this kind of code before, but failure was not an option. In one way, the entire Pathfinder mission was a risk—it was an attempt to reinvent space travel, an experiment to see just how cheap and how fast we could put a spacecraft on another planet. And we didn’t want to disappoint America. Working night and day, we got the code written and meeting performance targets, and then it was time for some folks to head to Florida to prep for the launch. I really wanted to go. But, I wasn’t on the list because my role was not critical to the Florida operations. My coworker was the UNIX system administrator, and he was on the list. But, he and his wife were having a baby, and he didn’t want to go. In one moment, I had to make a critical decision: would I take a risk? I had no idea how to do the job. But I love a challenge, and I really wanted to go to Florida. I raised my hand and said, “I’ll do it, just teach me how to be the UNIX system administrator.” As if it’s so easy. So my coworker trained me, and I was just writing everything in a notebook, scribbling down as much as I could. Those notes were all I would have to help me do the job."   Meet: Cindy Healy.

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