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.


For all 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

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