What advice can you offer to young scientists or engineers?
You don't have to be valedictorian to work for NASA or be involved in space exploration. There are many scientists/engineers that support the primary scientists in their day-to-day activities. For example, I work in the Contracts Department and ask questions everyday of the engineers who are assigned to support me. They may not design the spacecraft but they need to know it very well to explain it to me so I can explain it to our vendors.
What are your personal goals for the future?
Continue to be assigned new and interesting spacecraft procurements and continue to learn about the world of contracting.
What are your dreams for the future of exploration?
I hope NASA re-concentrates more on human missions, as in the past. (I enjoy working on robotic missions but human missions seem to interest the public much more.)
What portion of this mission interests you the most?
The fact that we will actually parachute little dune buggies (rovers) to the surface of Mars and remotely drive them around. They will analyze the soil and even drill holes in rocks to analyze what the rocks are made of.
What is the most fascinating thing about your mission?
As mentioned above, the rovers.
What's the most challenging part of your job?
Keeping track of the many, many different things that occur all at the same time. Of course we all like to do one thing at a time but that's not the way it is in business (or the world for that matter).
What is unique about your job?
Being able to be involved with many different and wonderful projects. I may purchase a mechanical worm to work it's way under large cities and detect natural gas leaks or I may fly to Europe to negotiate an optical mirror for a space telescope - and all in the same day or two.
What’s the most extraordinary experience you've had so far on this mission?
Learning about the sun sensor that gets attached to the spacecraft and keeps track of its position. Basically, we tell the spacecraft's computer where the sun should be in relation to the path the spacecraft will take. When the sun sensor relays that the sun isn't where it should be, the space flight computer sends commands to adjust the spacecraft's position.
When you were in elementary school, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Some type of businessman- running off to meetings and being involved in numerous things. (Which is exactly what I'm doing!)
When did you decide you wanted to be in the space industry and how did you go for it?
I didn't actually target the space industry but now that I'm here I think of it as an added perk. It's much more fun learning about what we're attempting to do with these projects versus manufacturing a wheel or parts for a phone, etc.
Why do you think Mars Exploration is important?
I feel it's the logical next step in moving mankind beyond the bounds of Earth.
What excites you about Mars or about space exploration?
The numerous spin-offs for applicability on Earth (micro-surgery, robotics, etc.) and the fact that the more we learn about our universe the more we learn about ourselves.
Do you work on any other projects at your company?
Yes, I'm involved in many near-Earth and deep space missions. Some I only get slightly involved by purchasing a small item but others I get very involved, including attending all the technical reviews and contractor meetings.
Do you have any hobbies?
I snow-ski/board in the winter and water-ski in the summer. Also, I like to walk and hike to stay in shape (I walk during most lunch breaks).
Is there anything else you'd like to tell us?
Supporting space exploration, even from an administrative perspective, is very exciting and rewarding. For those people who think they could never be a part, I say that desire and attitude are way more important than who you know or getting straight A's (although there's nothing wrong with straight A's)!