What advice can you offer to young scientists or engineers?
School! School! School! You can't learn enough science and math! Be positive in your outlook on life. Variety in activities and endeavors will keep your mind sharp and agile, your body in shape, and your attitude healthy!
What are your personal goals for the future?
Finish my Masters in Engineering Management. Start on another Masters degree, probably physics. Finish remodelling my house and yard.
What are your dreams for the future of exploration?
I would like to see a human colony on the moon. This would be the ideal stepping stone for space exploration. Spacecraft built there could be much lighter and thus much more fuel efficient than anything built to withstand the forces of leaving Earth's gravity.
What is unique about your job?
Well, I used to be able to say that I was a "Rocket Scientist" (and that was fun) but now I get to say that I am an "Interplanetary Explorer"!
When you were in elementary school, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I always wanted to be an astronaut. Even then I knew that space was where the future of mankind would lie!
When did you decide you wanted to be in the space industry and how did you go for it?
When I graduated from college with a degree in math, everyone wanted to know where I was going to teach- but I wanted to be involved in modern technology. After interviewing all over, I had several job offers. Some of the more interesting were simulation development for the military, microchip design and testing, and guidance and navigation for launch systems. And that is where the space bug bit me again!
What excites you about Mars or about space exploration?
"To go where no man has gone before!"
Do you work on any other projects at your company?
When I was a full time rocket scientist, I supported the launch of the Cassini Spacecraft as well as the Global Positioning System (GPS) and military satellites. While in this spacecraft group, I worked on the flight software for the Genesis and Stardust spacecrafts. Given my background with rockets, I was the key contributor for flight software for the Mars Ascent Vehicle proposal.
Describe the human side of robotic exploration.
Today, we do not have Artificial Intelligence. We, the engineers, must therefore create software to handle any and all possible situations that may arise during exploration, without the benefit of ever being there!
Do you have any hobbies?
Rock climbing! I used to teach an Explorer Post troop and with a friend, started a company rock climbing club. I still enjoy camping and 4-wheeling with my family. I also enjoy home improvement. My boys and I do EVERYTHING! We just got done completely remodelling a bathroom. Reading science fiction is another one of my favorite passtimes.
Is there anything else you'd like to tell us?
I don't think that there are that many jobs where YOU get to CREATE something new, different, and never attempted before. But, working on many of these different spacecraft has given me that opportunity! It is very exciting!