Driving a Mars rover -- moving something on another world -- is inherently awesome. It is the kind of thing I grew up dreaming of, and I have never been able to believe I get paid for this.
But another great thing about driving Mars rovers is the doors it opens here on Earth. I’ve met Star Trek greats and Tuskegee Airmen and Congressmen and actors and … and you name it.
And I’ve met you. Thousands and thousands of you. Funny, thoughtful, nerdy, great people -- just my type. It’s been a privilege to share my love and enthusiasm for space exploration with you -- and not just that. I’ve been lucky enough to communicate with many of you on a personal level, too; it’s been an honor to rejoice in your joys and commiserate in your sorrows.
But that will soon end -- or transition to a different phase, at least. I’m leaving JPL in a couple of weeks, probably on February 8.
A big change like this rarely has a single cause, and this one doesn’t, either. But it’s a lot like when my 15-year marriage broke up: JPL and I have grown in different directions, and I’m not a good fit there any more. That worsening fit has been making me increasingly unhappy for the last several years, and I no longer have any real hope that it’s going to get better. I’d rather leave while I can do so with some fondness for what’s past, and that means now.
I continue to have the greatest respect and admiration for my fellow RSVP developers and for my fellow rover drivers. Oh, Auntie Em, I’ll miss them most of all. They are the finest crew in Starfleet. I stayed at JPL a lot longer than I would have otherwise, largely so I could spend more time with them.
Right now I don’t know exactly what my future in social media will be -- but supposing I stick around, I won’t be a Mars rover driver any more, and that alters my value proposition. (Although, as a friend points out: how does that make me different from Neil deGrasse Tyson? "I used to drive a Mars rover" is a little like "I used to walk on the moon," and Neil Armstrong didn’t become less awesome when he came back and Pete Conrad went up. It’s a good point.) I’ll participate here up until the end of my time at JPL, and then I’ll probably be quiet for a while, and then … and then we’ll see. I’m sorry to leave this so uncertain, but that’s all I know right now. In a few weeks or months, I’ll have it figured out. I don’t have it figured out yet.
Meantime … meantime, so long. And thank you, thank you. You have no idea what you have meant to me.