by Kerstin Rao for Vivid Cottage
My husband and I went to Los Angeles for business and vacation recently. It was our first flight since the start of the pandemic (shout out to the great folks at Jet Blue! We appreciate your on-time flights and great customer service!)
Our daughter and her girlfriend had planned a once-in-a-lifetime experience - a 'friends-and-family' tour of SpaceX, hosted by their friend Jessie Anderson.
You may have seen Jessie - she often narrates SpaceX launches for social media (follow her on Instagram @whoisheartbreak). She appears briefly in the Netflix doc 'Return to Space' which is the fascinating story of SpaceX. She is a remarkable person - talented basketball player, rap artist, rocket scientist, and supervisor - a true Renaissance woman!
My husband Vijay and Jessie Anderson.
No photos or recordings were allowed while we were inside, so Vijay and I absorbed every morsel. I found myself in awe of the engineering and teamwork it takes to launch satellites and bring astronauts to and from the International Space Station.
We saw the first successfully-launched-and-returned SpaceX rocket - it hangs from the ceiling near their cafeteria. We learned about the precise mechanical engineering and manufacturing that goes into building space-worthy vehicles.
At the end, Jessie took us back outside to the SpaceX rocket that the public can see as they drive by the facility. This rocket is personal for her - it is the first one she helped to build!
Jessie is in the center, wearing an 'Occupy Mars' t-shirt.
Frankly, I was in awe. I've been to museums featuring the historic spaceships at the Air and Space Museum in D.C. and the Kennedy Center in Florida. But here, on the factory floor at SpaceX, the future is being actively built. We were walking among the builders of the future.
I suddenly felt both small as an Earth-bound human, and expansive as a witness to the ambitious people venturing further into the stars.
Well, what on earth (space humor) could I offer to Jessie to express our gratitude? I have nothing to compare with her contribution - she oversees a team of 100 building all the parts from the bottom of the rocket to just beneath the payload.
So, I offered gratitude. In my humble way. A hand-written letter of appreciation, with some printed photos tucked into the envelope.
It felt small, but it was sincere.
A couple weeks later, I got a text from my daughter and her girlfriend:
Text from Jessie to my daughter's girlfriend.
Would you look at that?
Even a rocket scientist feels the impact of a hand-written letter!
My day was made, and I had a big smile on my face.
I wonder - who would be happy to receive a card from you?