March 31, 2003

Canberra, 2003

I kept a detailed journal while I was in Australia, and I'll be posting edited bits from it over the next couple of weeks. I thought I'd start by explaining why I was going to Australia in the first place, what with war in the offing and all (in the event, the war started a week after I arrived).

I didn't really want to go. But I work at JPL, where I work on the ground system used to communicate with our planetary spacecraft. JPL has a network of ground stations around the globe, one of which is in Australia. We just delivered a major update to the part of the system for which I'm responsible, and the last time I went overseas was just under four years ago. So, basically, my boss told me it was high time I went to Australia and spent some time with my customers. She was right, of course, even though it meant leaving Jane and our three kids at home alone for two weeks. Oh, I could have gone for a single week--but nobody should have to go through the plane flight, the jet lag, and the subsequent reorientation twice in seven days.

So I was looking forward to two weeks at the Canberra Deep Space Communications Complex, which is located about half-an-hour from Canberra's city center at a place called Tidbinbilla. "Tidbinbilla" is apparently an English corruption of an aboriginal word which means "The place where boys go to become men." It's also fun to say: Tid-Bin-Billa.

Four years ago I went on my own; this time I had a travelling companion. His name is John; he's a young feller fresh out of college who was hired to help our testers with their documentation. My boss sent him along to learn more about how our system is used in practice.

On Thursday, March 13th, we went to the airport and got on the plane, and off we went. But more of that in my next post.

Posted by Will Duquette at March 31, 2003 03:19 PM