Gravity Probe B
In part, the arrangement evolved simply because so much of the project
expertise is concentrated at Stanford, space agency officials said. But
it also is a measure of trust.
It especially is a vote of confidence in Parkinson, who, prior to
joining the Stanford faculty, was the U.S. Air Force officer most
responsible for organizing and managing the development of the
24-satellite Global Positioning System (GPS), which has revolutionized
the science of navigation around the world. For his role in
orchestrating GPS, one aerospace expert called Parkinson "one of the
unsung heroes of the space age."
Faith in its management, however, has not protected the relativity mission from all kinds of second
thoughts about its scientific goals. In their pursuit, project
scientists have already been subjected to unexpected tests of the limits
of patience, tolerance and determination.
MECHANICS VS. POLITICS
its technical elegance, the project
owes its existence as much to a grasp of fundamental political equations
as to the mastery of abstruse relativity theory and orbital mechanics.
"I never had any idea I would get into the amount of political battling
that I got into to keep the program going," Everitt says. "One is
certainly not taught, when one is taught physics, that a significant
period of your time would be spent in Washington, D.C."
Indeed, as Everitt speaks, he is not in his Stanford office, but in a
hotel room near Capitol Hill in Washington, preparing to make the rounds
of congresspeople, senators, staff aides and committee experts prior to
a regular meeting at NASA headquarters on the project's status. There is
no formal requirement that Everitt consult with anyone in Congress at
the time of the NASA review, or even that he be present for the NASA
meeting. But he