L'Team - Featuring Traci Case

May 14, 2021

While a robot may be the one visiting the Trojan asteroids, people are responsible for getting it there. In L’Team we meet some of the people that make Lucy Mission possible.

What is your role on the Lucy team? I am the SwRI Deputy Payload Manager and Earned Value Lead for the Payload and SOC (Science Operations Center).

Please describe the path you’ve taken to get here. My path was very different than others on Lucy. I received a work study grant as a junior studying Journalism at Penn State University. I had always been interested in astronomy, even flunked out of the astrophysics program at one point. So I went to the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics and asked if they had anything for me to do. They had just been awarded the Swift mission and brought me on as an engineering assistant. Apparently I impressed them with my extreme attention to detail and the hired me as the Assistant Project Manager for the XRT instrument. I graduated in Dec 2001 and joined SwRI after we delivered the instruments for Swift in 2003. Since then I’ve worked multiple instruments and missions, and haven’t used my journalism degree a single day in my life. Through a series of strange events and coincidences, I discovered what I was meant to do in my career.

What has been your most gratifying accomplishment related to Lucy? With launch less than 6 months away, I think the greatest accomplishment (other than a successful mission of course!) has been the closeness of the team. Lucy is fun! We all adore working with each other. No problem seems insurmountable; the team works together to figure everything out. Leadership created this mindset from the beginning.

Favorite pastime outside of Lucy? During COVID, I started feeding the homeless in my community. I drop off hot meals to the local shelter and do street outreach providing food, beverages, hygiene products, and clothes. A few weeks ago I encountered two men who were new to town. They didn’t have much with them and I was able to give them some thermal sleeping bags, warm socks, hand warmers, food and water before a few nights of freezing temperatures. It is so rewarding and I’ve met some really great people along the way. I have big dreams to open my own non-profit shelter where there are supplies, showers, food, and music; a supply and supper club to remove the stigma of a soup kitchen.

How would you finish this sentence… The best part of the job is? The people. This has been a blast since Day 1 and I can’t wait to see everyone at the launch.

Favorite cocktail and why? Champagne because . . . why not? It is bubbly, fruity, and my equivalent to beer.