In 2004, in the summer before my last year at NAU, I worked at USGS, on the Astrogeology Team. What I did there was nothing special, but it was a pretty special place to be, especially at that time.
I worked on a package called ISIS, Integrated Software for Imagers and Spectrometers. It was software for processing high-resolution photos we received from sources including the Lunar Orbiter, the Mars Rover...and Cassini.
Cassini entered Saturn orbit shortly after I started working there. It was an exciting time. I got to spend a lot of time looking at images that looked a lot like these:
I grabbed this image from FiveThirtyEight. Original source is, obviously, NASA.
My work on ISIS wasn't anything high-level or complicated. I edited makefiles, so that the ISIS source code (a mix of C and FORTRAN) would compile for different platforms. If memory serves, we supported Windows, OSX, Solaris, and x86 GNU/Linux.
My work wasn't glamorous, and I'm sure it's all long-gone for the codebase. But I was thrilled just to be on the team, to be part of something like that -- getting photos back from Saturn.
It's been more than thirteen years, and I've had nearly that many jobs, since my time at USGS. But I still feel that connection to the work and to the project. In all that time, every time I've see a headline about Cassini or Saturn, I've checked out the article. My favorite part is always the pictures.
Today, Cassini concludes its journey, burning up on entry into Saturn's atmosphere, transmitting data back for as long as it can.
It's been a good run. And I'll never forget the small part I played in it.