One and done/ an exercise to the reader

Author: Isbaah P.

Starting off the day, we knew that by the end, we would have reached the conclusion of our academic journey at SSP- we would’ve submitted our Orbit Determination report. One Google Form submission and we’re done, right? Not quite, unless to you one submission means 12 hours of just drafting, along with a 5 week effort of collecting, analysing and crying over blurry pictures of an (approximately 5 pixel spanning) asteroid. 

An image where you can see all the stars twice! But our asteroid? Not even once.

This one submission has, I’m sure, taken years off of all our collective lives, but every second was worth it, for the instantaneous euphoria and relief we felt when handing in the cover of our reports (because printing the entire reports would’ve been a crime against humanity) to a Dr. Andersen-cosplaying-Dr. Rengstorf. The entire process was a very full-circle moment- reminiscent of our submission at SSP, the Asteroid Proposal. As brought to my attention by Hyde, our resident talent show-act-messing-up professional, this last high stakes submission had a lot in common with our very first somewhat high stakes submission (I say somewhat because I was later informed by Dr. R that asteroid assignments were, to an extent, pre-decided). We were all working with our observing teams, had basically no idea what was going on, thought that this one Google (or LaTex) Document could make or break our SSP experience, and were cowering in our boots thinking of the moment this mess of words was due. The feeling was much too similar to be ignored- except for a few differences. Except for the fact that we were all (statistically) significantly more knowledgeable than we were when we walked out those doors that said El Paso Airport, Texas (who knew New Mexico wasn’t just another part of the great state of Texas?). Except for the fact that now when I looked at the numerous differential equations in the Math Problem Sets, I knew what was going on. Except for the fact that I wasn’t horrified by the fact that I had to write an Orbit Determination code, I already had a written OD code. Except for the fact that I was a changed person, sitting behind my Windows laptop screen, typing away; I was a different person than who I was five weeks ago, we all were. 

As we approached the last hour of the day, as previously mentioned, a bowtie-wearing-Dr. Rengstorf, projected a timer (that was accurate to the millisecond, might I add), counting down to midnight- our deadline. After our final proofreading (an exaggeration; we barely skimmed it), my team and I decided to submit our report by clicking the submit button together, and became the second team to submit our report. And yes, the spreadsheet tracking the Google Forms submission was also being projected, if the millisecond timer wasn’t enough reminder of slipping time. 

W’s all over after the submission.

Once submitted, we decided to take a walk outside the infamous dungeon, in the Vivian-approximated 40 miles per hour New Mexico winds. Surrounded by vivid streaks of lightning (also videographed by Vivian), I realised how much closer I was to my teammates, and how much I was going to miss working and spending time with them- may it be trying and failing to AutoFocus, calling Zach (NMSU telescope top-dog) at midnight or going cloud-watching at 2 am. Trauma did really bond us to each other. Well, that is probably a justifiable argument for all the friendships we made at the Student Suffering Program. 

Post OD euphoria (euphemism, I think not) caught in 4k, along with a Dr. Anderson lookalike.

Adhering to the numerous neon-orange sticky notes on the door, we made our way back to the Biology Annex with the Astronomy classroom by 11:55 pm, where we saw the same relief we felt submitting our report take over the faces of our dearest friends, and then proceeded to fight those same people in a battle to the death over stickers to be stuck for our respective teams on the progress chart. 

War is over.

Shortly after, we were all pleasantly surprised by Domino’s Pizza, which- safe to say- was the best tasting pizza I have had in my entire life (pizza six hours after dinner at 1 am do be hitting different). Despite the fact that the pizza was indeed a surprise, the most surprising part about that extravaganza wasn’t the pizza itself, rather it was the fact that we were eating the pizza inside the dungeon. Moments before the heavenly boxes of pizza were bestowed upon us, our TA, Toothless, had prohibited my teammate and I from eating a measly granola bar (that he had given to us) inside the classroom. So you can imagine my surprise when all 42 of us were eating pizza and drinking pink-coloured drinks within the confines of our classroom– my bad– dungeon.

Cosplay inspiration Dr. Anderson, overshadowed by the remains of our OD report spoils.
Toothless asking us what we think.

As we walked back to the dorms at an unrespectable hour, we realised how much we had accomplished in a mere five weeks, and how far we’d come- not only as students, but as people, as teammates, as roommates, and as a family. For my friends and I, we proceeded to hang out (within the boundaries and our curfew of course) right outside our dorm building, laughing and lamenting over all the memories we’d made; including one we made mere minutes ago, when a girl who totally wasn’t drunk screamed she loved us at the top of her lungs (shoutout to my ogs: rachel, arjun and sri). Laying down in my bed that night, I knew I had my answer about the question I had asked myself at the beginning of SSP- will this truly be the best summer of my life? I’ll leave figuring out what my answer was to you, as an exercise to the reader.