What advice can you offer to young scientists or engineers?
Try to figure out "how things work". Take advantage of opportunities to take things apart and sometimes get them back together. Enjoy cool new tech-gadgets but don't get wrapped up in them. Develop a well-rounded set of experiences that aren't all classic math & science -- you never know where the inspiration for technological advances come from.
What are your dreams for the future of exploration?
I would like to see us keep pushing further out and deeper in. Ultimately, finding evidence for or against life on another planet or in another solar system would be great. At the same time, I am always fascinated by what we continue to find deep in our oceans and at the same time, amazed by how little of it that we have seen.
What is the most fascinating thing about your mission?
The enormous amount of capability of the two rovers. They are truly moving landed science platforms. They have the ability to take multiple types of spectrographic and geologic data and possess all the hardware necessary navigate Mars and transmit the data millions of miles back to Earth.
What's the most challenging part of your job?
Finishing the job within the deadline. We work to what is sometimes an extreme schedule crunch because there are set launch opportunities for Mars. That means, every 20 months or so the planets are aligned in a way that makes the launch and trip to Mars possible. Getting all the work done that we need to do in order to ensure a safe and successful mission can sometimes be very difficult
What is unique about your job?
Getting to design and build new things every day that have never existed.
What’s the most extraordinary experience you've had so far on this mission?
Stepping back one day and seeing both rovers side by side, fully assembled, and ready to drive on Mars. It was awesome sight to see after such a relatively short span of time in which they were conceived of, designed, and built.
When you were in elementary school, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Carpenter and/or elephant (c'mon I was young)
When did you decide you wanted to be in the space industry and how did you go for it?
I never really had plans for being in the space industry. I originally began work at JPL due to an interest in robotics and robotic mechanisms -- my first jobs were designing research vehicles. However, since starting at JPL, I have come to respect and be amazed by the energy and commitment that goes into each and every mission that we do.
Why do you think Mars Exploration is important?
Exploration in general is very important. We need to keep that small fire inside us lit -- that one that makes us want to learn and understand what is out there, how things "are", and what might be in store for the future. In this way, exploring Mars might help understand, in a geological and possibly bi
What excites you about Mars or about space exploration?
The chance to find out something completely unexpected that both surprises and enlightens the world with the results.
Do you work on any other projects at your company?
One of the great things about working at JPL is the tremendous amount of opportunities you have to work on a variety of tasks. I described a number of Mars-related research vehicles I have worked on. In addition to those, I have designed a very small rover (5 inches square) for an expected asteroid mission and have had involvement with a tracked vehicle (Packbot) that will help keep our soldiers safe in the future.
Describe the human side of robotic exploration.
Dedicated people are involved every step of the way. From the start, people design the robots to have capabilities that mimic people when appropriate and increase our capabilities when possible. People integrate the robotic vehicles (rovers and spacecraft alike) with precision and attention to detail in order to minimize every chance of failure. And finally, although we try to let the vehicles do more and more things on their own (autonomously), every day of each mission there are many people receiving, interpreting, and deciding on the data received from these "robot explorers" to enable the missions to continue safely and effectively.
Do you have any hobbies?
I like to play almost any sport, but I especially like basketball, softball, football, tennis and golf. At home, I enjoy destroying parts of my house under the guise of "home improvement", playing my xbox with family and friends, and from time to time, struggling with playing the guitar.