SOHO is in the Simifinal Round of NASA's Mission Madness!

April 2, 2009

Interview with Dr. Joe Gurman (NASA Goddard)

--QUESTION: Dr. Joe Gurman, as one of the two coaches on SOHO, why do you think people have underestimated the impact SOHO has had in the past 13 years. What makes SOHO so special?

Coach Gurman:
SOHO is kind of a sleeper --- an easy mission to miss. We don't get the kind of press human spaceflight does, but what we've learned about space weather from SOHO is crucial to safety for human activity in space, just as it is for predicting space weather effects here on earth. Only SOHO has that 24 hour a day, every day, view of the Sun and heliosphere: we never quit.

QUESTION: Coach, over the years there have been up and downs. In the late 90s you almost lost SOHO. Tell us about the recovery and how you were able to save the team.

We got a big assist from another great team --- a team of European and US engineers and scientists who showed remarkable ingenuity in figuring out how to reopen communications after we lost power and started tumbling, and who also showed remarkable grit in working against the clock to bring SOHO's critical systems back, one by one.

QUESTION: As a veteran mission, SOHO has been in orbit doing its job for over 13 years. That is more than twice the expectancy, isn't it? How's SOHO's current health and what will SOHO's future be?

SOHO's in great shape. We had a great conditioning program (built by a great team of European Space Agency and European industry, with equally well built instruments from Europe and the US). We've had our share of injuries over the years, but the spacecraft performs better than ever. We think our opponents will be surprised.

QUESTION: To focus back on NASA's Mission Madness - Round 2 will give us a match-up between Apollo 8 and SOHO. What are your thoughts?

Apollo 8 was a great mission, and we have nothing but respect for our opponents. It was a fantastic accomplishment, and the crew did a lot in those six days. SOHO's been in space over 4,800 days, taking a licking and still beating the odds. We're in it for the long haul.

QUESTION: Coach, last question. In your view what are SOHO's top 3 accomplishments? Will these help reach the "Sweet Sixteen" or even the Half Final in NASA’s Mission Madness?

SOHO has helped us realize we can see right through the Sun and image activity on the far side; it's given us key insights into the heating of the solar corona and origin of the solar wind; and it's made it possible to give up to three days' warning of space weather events that can affect both spacefarers and us here on Earth --- when before SOHO, an hour's warning was the best we could do. I can't predict how far we'll go, but we're proud and pleased and happy to have gotten this far --- and we'll give the other teams a run for their money.

--- end of interview ---

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