ESOC and XMM teams celebrate Santa Lucia
12 December 1999Some very special "rocket fuel" was awaiting the B-team XMM flight controllers when they came off shift, midday on December 13. Swedish staff had organised a gathering to celebrate Santa Lucia, Sweden's traditional remembrance of the Sicilian saint.
XMM's Anders Elfving (Attitude and Orbit systems engineer) and Anders Karlsson (TTC & software engineer) had prepared the potent beverage, called "glvgg", a mixture of wine, spices and a dash of vodka. They were assisted by Swedish colleagues from ESOC Mats Rosengren and Boris Smeds, Tommy Strandberg from Dornier and Andreas Hedqvist from XMM contractor VEGA.
Whilst the XMM spacecraft continued on its second orbit, the corridor outside the Main Control room resounded to the strains of a violin and the song of Santa Lucia. Everyone heartily enjoyed the glogg and gingerbread cookies.
According to tradition, Santa Lucia wanted to devote her life to God instead of marrying. To put off a potential suitor she gouged her own eyes out! In another version of her story her suitor denounced her as a Christian to the Roman authorities, who retaliated by sentencing her to live in a brothel and when she refused, ordered her to be burnt to death. Another legend says the Romans tried to drag her out of the temple where she wouldnt budge. Even a fire built around her had no effect. She is always shown carrying her eyes around on a plate, and is now revered as the patron saint of light. Lucia has been remembered every 13 December since the 16th Century.
The Swedish nationals of the XMM project team have always celebrated Santa Lucia at ESTEC, during the development phase of the project. But it was the first time that the feast was celebrated at ESOC.
XMM was a few hours away from another boost of its thrusters, to again raise its perigee. People at the small party joked about the effects the beverage might have on the increase in speed, but Flight Operations management assured everyone that there was no glvgg on board the spacecraft - and that the A-team about to take responsibility for XMM were following a dry path into the control room!