The Loss of a Space Mission

Written on 18 Sep 2017

Supporting clients with their losses can seem a simple process from an outsider’s perspective but my experience has taught me it is deceptively simple. This is because the life-changing experience of loss can shatter people’s lives and reveal all sorts of complications. So the work requires many more skills than might at first be imagined.

On the subject of loss, my heart went out to the many scientists and engineers involved in the Cassini space mission recently. A friend of mine who is interested in all things space drew my attention to the situation. Apparently, this unmanned spacecraft was conceived and engineered in the late 1980’s and early 90’s and launched in 1977 with its prime mission to explore the mysteries of Saturn whilst on its way there fly by Jupiter. Over 10 years ago it entered the Saturn system and since then has apparently sent back amazing new findings and data that will keep the mission scientists occupied for years.

But all things come to an end and the spacecraft was running out of fuel to allow it to remain in orbit and the decision was made to put it into a trajectory that would mean it plunging to its destruction in Saturn’s atmosphere.

This took place recently and with my friend I saw coverage of some of the mission staff as loss of transmission from the craft signalled its end. And whilst there was some quiet triumph at the successful completion of the mission and its achievement in new discoveries and in gathering the vast amounts of new scientific data, I heard several of the scientists and engineers say how their whole working lives had been directly involved in the craft and its mission. One said : “ this spacecraft has been my whole life for the past 20 years”.

I couldn’t help but compare the situation to conceiving a baby, , it being born, seeing it grow and develop, then be launched into (out of) the world, watching its progress and then achievements with pride over many years (just like we do with our own children) – but then sadly witnessing, even being involved in the decision to see its death.

I’m not sure if NASA or the European Space Agency have counsellors – but what some of those people are experiencing is a classic case of loss and I hope that others close to them are compassionate and supportive at this time.

If you've been affected by the topic that I've covered in this blog post, and would like to discuss your feelings, you can leave a public comment below. Alternatively, if you'd like to communicate with me on a one-to-one basis about any issues you'd like to discuss further, you can either email me or call me on 07946 517967.