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Willy Benz director of the NCCR PlanetS. (SPACE/UNIBE/Alessandro Della Bella)

Living in the days of the Coronavirus is not easy. As many aspects of society shut down in an effort to slow down the progression of the virus, it is difficult to maintain scientific activities. No lectures or colloquia anymore, conferences and schools are cancelled, observatories are restricting operations… Business as usual is no more.

Sure, this is the time to write this long postponed paper or report, from home of course because this is the socially responsible thing to do. But somehow, once the first few days will be past and the backlog decreased, the nagging question will come: How long can this still last? No one really knows, but for sure we cannot continue for long before things will become really difficult. This is when one realizes how much we all depend on social interactions with family, neighbours, and colleagues and how much science rests on contacts and discussions. In any case, regardless how long it lasts, we will have to weather the storm and contrary to many other professions, we are not even in the eye of it…

At this point, thoughts come to mind (plenty of time for this). How lucky we were to have had the time to celebrate the Nobel Prize and to launch CHEOPS and carry out the early phases of the in-orbit commissioning when everyone had to be in the same room in Madrid, just before the outbreak. Imagine… Now, everything is remotely controlled from Geneva and Madrid, so it is easier even though we have to spend a lot of time behind screens in videoconferences to discuss results and the next steps. Everyone has experienced the frustration of the frozen image and/or choppy sound, but so far it allows continuing operating the satellite. So far the results are extremely encouraging despite some juvenile disease that we expect to cure with a few software patches. Here, no big worries and lots of hope to be able to start nominal operations soon.

I wish you a pleasant reading of this edition of “The Observer” and most of all stay safe and healthy over the next few months.

Willy Benz director of the NCCR PlanetS

Categories: External Newsletter, Uncategorized

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