NASA’s Job

“Our job is not to make the incredible possible. Our job is to make the impossible credible.”
—Jerry Olivieri (1962-1999), American aerospace engineer (NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory)

The full context of this quote, from my eulogy of Jerry in 1999:

Jerry was a brilliant and uncompromising engineer. One of his strengths was keeping humans in the loop: It’s relatively easy to design a machine. It’s a lot harder to design it well so that it helps people, rather than get in their way. He applied that to the space program as a whole. He would tell the people he worked with, “Our job is not to make the incredible possible. Our job is to make the impossible credible.” These kinds of tidbits helped people remember the big picture. We’re not tossing spacecraft up to make them fly, we’re making them fly to bring us knowledge and understanding.

Re-queued from an earlier posting: today would have been Jerry’s 58th birthday, and I still miss him.

Note: The photo is the spacecraft Cassini at Saturn.

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Randy Cassingham is best known as the creator of This is True, the oldest entertainment feature on the Internet: it has been running weekly by email subscription since early 1994. It is social commentary using weird news as its vehicle so it’s fun to read. Click here for a subscribe form — basic subscriptions are free.