What advice can you offer to young scientists or engineers?
Be persistent! Motivation, persistance, and hard work are the keys to getting where you want to go. This is probably true for any field, and I think it is true in the sciences as well.
What are your personal goals for the future?
I look forward to helping out with the Mars Exploration Rover mission. I hope to also become involved with the future Mars missions.
What are your dreams for the future of exploration?
I hope that the United States commits to sending humans to Mars. I hope also that private enterprise becomes involved in the launch and space tourism industry.
What portion of this mission interests you the most?
I am thrilled with the idea of seeing landscapes on the surface of Mars that have never been seen before. I am also hopeful that we will be able to find minerals that we can conclusively say were formed in aqueous environments.
What’s the most extraordinary experience you've had so far on this mission?
Participating in the Field Integrated Design & Operations (FIDO) rover test in August 2002 was definitely a singular experience for me. I have done geology in the field myself, but the FIDO test was the first time that I, as a member of a team, have done field geology through a robotic rover.
When you were in elementary school, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I was inspired by the Apollo missions when I was still in grade school. I always wanted to be an astronaut and I always wanted to be an astronaut who would "go somewhere" be it to the Moon or asteroids or Mars. That inspired me to study geology and ultimately become a geologist.
Why do you think Mars Exploration is important?
By studying Mars, we are gaining insights that will help us understand the geologic history of the Earth. By characterizing the surface of Mars with robotic rovers, we are also serving as the advanced scouts for future human explorers.
What excites you about Mars or about space exploration?
I have always firmly believed that human society in general and the American people in particular need to have a frontier in order to remain free both in actuality and in spirit. Space is the frontier which our society needs to embrace if it is to remain vibrant. Ultimately, for space to be a true frontier we will need people out there forming new human settlements. For today, we need to see what's out there and robotic exploration of Mars and other worlds is our venue for doing that. The exploration of new worlds is a profoundly exciting venture. I can't imagine anything more interesting than the exploration of new worlds.
Do you work on any other projects at your company?
I am involved in several other NASA funded science investigations and also periodically help out with the content for traveling museum exhibitions developed by the Space Science Institute.
Describe the human side of robotic exploration.
It is human imagination that develops rovers and selects where they land and what features they investigate. The rovers are just an extension of our own imagination and desire for knowledge.
Do you have any hobbies?
I am an avid rock climber. I got started in climbing when I was a grad student at the University of Arizona and have been at it ever since. I have climbed at crags all over the U.S. and at some foreign locales as well.