Marc Rayman
Marc Rayman
Chief Engineer/ Mission Director, JPL
The Hundredth Journal

by Marc Rayman

Colleague Keri Bean's festive (and delicious) cake

Colleague Keri Bean’s festive (and delicious) cake with some of the greetings used in the Dawn Journals.

I have been captivated by space since I was four years old, and my enthusiasm has grown stronger and stronger ever since. With a lifelong passion for the exploration and utilization of space, covering the science, the engineering and the pure thrill of a cosmic adventure, working on a mission to explore some of the last uncharted worlds in the inner solar system has been a dream come true for me. My work is indescribably exciting.

And although it literally is indescribable, I can’t help but try! As one facet of that effort, I started writing the Dawn Journal eight years ago. Now that I have written 100, I was invited to write a short blog to celebrate. (In other words, I’ve been asked to blog about blogging.)

Dr. Marc Rayman

Some of his coworkers surprised Marc Rayman, chief engineer and mission director for NASA’s Dawn mission, with a celebration of his 100th Dawn Journal posting. Image credit: NASA/JPL

My goal has been to provide an inside view of the mission, starting when our faithful spacecraft was being built and readied for launch and continuing throughout its remarkable interplanetary journey. I have tried to provide some insight into how such a complex undertaking is accomplished as well as share some of the exhilaration, the wonder, the drama, the rewards, and the inspiration. I know I am extremely fortunate to participate in this project, and I want to help involve everyone else who longs to understand the cosmos or who wants to fuel their inner fires that burn for a noble adventure. Moreover, as one of the stewards of precious taxpayer dollars, I feel it is very important to inform people of what a fabulous return they are getting for their small investment in NASA.

To that end, I have written more than 171 thousand words in Dawn Journals covering all aspects of the mission. (In the interest of full disclosure, I acknowledge that I have reused some words, including, for example, “Dawn” more than 2,000 times and “the” more than 13,800 times.) I usually end up writing them in what would otherwise be my spare time and in a great rush, but I like to think it is worthwhile, as collectively they offer a good description of one of humankind’s grand endeavors, from the trivial and mundane to the fascinating and profound.

I plan to continue the Dawn Journals as long as Dawn continues its extraordinary extraterrestrial expedition. I hope you will join Dawnophiles throughout the universe who find them a helpful and engaging way to ride along on this ambitious mission of discovery as creatures on Earth, curious and creative, humble yet bold, reach far, far from home.

Check out Marc’s 100th Dawn Journal. Or check out the first, the 99th, or any of the others here!

Enjoy a tour of Marc’s home “in space.”

You can read Marc’s Deep Space 1 “mission logs,” which evolved to the same style as his Dawn Journals, here.


10 Responses to “The Hundredth Journal”

  1. Dan says:

    Hello Dr. Rayman. Why can’t the spacecraft fly off to visit Palas after finishing Ceres? That way, it will visit all three primary astroids and compare them. Is the xenon gas running out or something else?

    • Marc Rayman says:

      Hi Dan,

      I explained here that Dawn will remain in orbit around Ceres because that is the most productive way to use its remaining supply of hydrazine following the loss of two of its four reaction wheels.

      Others have also asked why we don’t visit Pallas, and I offered answers here and here. Dawn certainly could not orbit it. As it is, orbiting two unexplored worlds is beyond what any spacecraft has attempted, but orbiting a third is beyond even Dawn’s unique capability. Despite rumors to the contrary, we have never even investigated flying by Pallas. Ceres is so large and such a fascinating place that there will always be more there we could learn.


  2. Rob says:

    Dr. Rayman,

    Congratulations on your 100th post (actually 101 now). I look forward to reading your blog each month and this mission has been an inspiration to me for many years now. I can’t wait for the first clear images of Ceres and the interesting analysis that will follow. Thanks again for your kind words of encouragement when I was able to briefly speak to you at IAC 2012! This year the conference is in Toronto, right in my backyard. Hope to see you there!

    • Marc Rayman says:

      I’m glad you have continued to follow this exciting mission, Rob, and that you enjoy my blogs. Thank you very much.

      I enjoyed meeting you at the International Astronautical Congress in 2012, and it will be good to see you again in Toronto. And after that, Ceres!


  3. Scott says:

    Grats, Marc on the 100th! Keep up the good work, we love every word. Also keep in mind I am tracking your use of my wife’s name for royalties at the end. ;)

  4. Kurt Muellauer says:

    Dear Mark,
    I have been reading your posts ever since you started with Deep Space 1 in news groups about 15 years ago. Being interested in and following the news (Internet, astronomy magazines and books) about interplanetary space missions since the early nineties, I claim to have developed a good sense of understanding.
    Congratulations to a great job, you are the best, namely in technical expertise, humour and eloquence.

    • Marc Rayman says:

      Thank you very much, Kurt! I’m grateful for your very nice message.

      It’s neat that you followed DS1 too. That was the first mission to use ion propulsion to go somewhere. We learned a great deal in that cool project, and it has been very gratifying to apply some of that to Dawn’s bold mission of exploration. (Other missions built upon DS1’s successes as well, both the technologies it tested and the first close-up images NASA obtained of the nucleus of a comet.) By the way, my DS1 “mission logs” (“blog” was not a common term then) started as transcripts of my brief recorded JPL mission status telephone updates, and they evolved over the course of the mission to take advantage of that newfangled World Wide Web.

      I’m pleased you have followed interplanetary missions for so long, and I hope you continue to find Dawn and others so interesting. Thanks again!

  5. Holly says:

    Dr. Rayman,

    Congratulations on 100 posts! Thank you for keeping this inspiring and entertaining blog. I feel lucky to learn from an expert each month, especially someone with such a talent for conveying the excitement of his work! I’m looking forward to all the new things I’ll learn with the arrival at Ceres and the upcoming blog posts.

    • Marc Rayman says:

      I appreciate your kind comment, Holly! I share your eagerness for learning about Ceres, and I’m glad you’ll be reading about it in my Dawn Journals. It’s good to have you along on the mission.