A post-doc is extremely low on the totem pole of authority.  The ranking goes roughly: Principal Investigators and Branch Heads, Staff Scientists, Secretaries, Soft-Money Scientists, Technical Staff, Support Staff, Janitors, the stray cats in the garage (yes, we have them!), Post-docs, Students.

Naturally the branch head asked me to manage the pre-launch efforts to ensure our science pipeline would be ready on time and able to produce scientific results from day one.

I found the situation extremely amusing.  There I was, a newcomer to the group and a lowly post-doc to boot, assigning tasks to senior scientists, shifting people to must-do items, and chiding them for missing deadlines.  And you know what?  Everyone was fine with that.

This is one aspect I love about science.  Most people just want the job done and for the mission to succeed, and issues like pedigree and job title are not nearly as crucial as a willingness to step in and do work.  If you are competent and reasonable, you can lead a small team.

Frankly, if you're foolish enough to take up the hassles of managing, others will happily cede that so they can get back to what they consider 'real work'-- science.  The career downside was that helping prep for launch meant no science or papers, and not even a formal title to add to my CV.

Who would ever believe a new post-doc was actually in charge of the entire 'software roadmap' for the SECCHI instrument onboard STEREO? But I'll always know and remember 'my satellite'.

Alex, the daytime astronomer

The Daytime Astronomer, Tues&Fri here, via RSS feed, and twitter @skyday