24 hours later I’m still at a loss for words. The best I can do right now is attempt to capture what I was thinking yesterday. During the mission I remember thinking:
“OK, we cleared the tower. Awesome. F9 cleared the tower twice.”
“Alright, MECO1. Code still works! Nice.”
“OK, MECO2, very nice. 1st stage worked twice in a row.”
“Sep worked twice?! What?”
“2nd stage lit?”
“We’re not spinning up! OK great, we nailed the roll control issue.”
When I turned around and saw the video of Dragon drifting away from 2nd stage my eyes were so full of tears I couldn’t see my console anymore. I quickly tried to shake it off and put my face 10″ away from the monitor that indicated Dragon’s orientation.
Then Dragon started slowly slewing towards its first TDRSS satellite. I thought, “Oh my God… it works, it’s working!” and tears filled my eyes a second time. I put my hands on my face, my elbows on the desk and tried to regain my composure. I was so thankful. To see F9 work flawlessly, and then Dragon kick off and do autonomous attitude control… I was done. At that point I could have gone home happy; the mission was a complete success in my mind.
But as the day progressed things kept getting more and more surreal. Dragon did everything it was supposed to do. Attitude control worked. Comm worked. The deorbit burned worked. Entry worked. Parachutes deployed. Water landing worked. When they got it back on the boat I didn’t know what to think anymore. I reflected on my perceptions of what was achievable and the reality that was confronting me and for a few seconds it made me nauseous. I had to make a conscious effort the rest of the day not to think about it.
So there it is. We did it. What an incredible team. It’s been a real honor working on this project.