Caught Blue Handed or Rewriting History Can Be Problematic–Bernie Bienstock

In 2003, when Boeing was collaborating with JPL on a probe proposal, it occurred to me that a brochure should be developed for the upcoming 2ndInternational Planetary Probe Workshop at NASA Ames. I convinced Boeing management of the merit of this concept and began working with Jim Santoni, our resident graphics guru. We reviewed the archives of the Pioneer Venus and Galileo programs to find the photos that would most convincingly send the message that we had the experience needed to design planetary entry probes for future NASA missions.

One photo caught my eye. It captured our skilled technicians deep in the final assembly of the Galileo probe. They were carefully positioning the aft cover on the descent vehicle installed in the deceleration module. There was only one problem with the photo: the technicians were touching extremely valuable hardware with their bare hands. One was even wearing a ring. Knowing this 1980’s practice was certainly not consistent with the rules enforced in the early 2000s, I asked Jim to retouch the photo. For the brochure, he graphically applied gloves to the technicians’ hands. The cover of the brochure is included below, with the blue-gloved hands of the technicians clearly visible.

Several years later, as I was chatting with a young engineer about my experiences on the Pioneer Venus and the Galileo probes, he mentioned that he had seen the original photo of technicians. He recalled that the photo captured the technicians working without gloves. There I was, caught blue-handed as I explained how we had retouched the original photo for the brochure.

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