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Photo of Douglas Petercsak
   Douglas Petercsak

What advice can you offer to young scientists or engineers?

I would recommend that young people interested in science and engineering start with a solid analytical foundation that can only be provided by education. However, they should also make sure that they get as much exposure to hands on experience. There is so much of engineering and particularly design that is not taught in school.

What are your dreams for the future of exploration?

I was one of those people who saw 2001: A Space Odyssey and thought that this was our future and I was going to live to see it. I am somewhat disappointed that we are not there yet but I know that one day space travel will be as common as a trip on an airplane. I am also looking forward to the day we can image planets around other stars and possibly discover that we are not alone in the universe. I feel confident that all these things are attainable in my lifetime.

When you were in elementary school, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I used to come home from Kindergarten and run to the TV to watch the Apollo moon landings. Since those days I wanted to be an engineer designing spacecraft to explore the solar system and beyond. I never lost site of this goal and still have not to this day.

Do you work on any other projects at your company?

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I have been very fortunate to be given the design responsibility for many different and exciting projects. I was responsible for the mechanical design and analysis of the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission deployment actuators which deployed the largest deployable structure ever to fly in space. I also was responsible for part of the scan mirror assembly on the Stardust program that is currently out beyond the orbit of Mars and is returning samples of interplanetary dust back to Earth. The company that I founded with a partner was also responsible for supplying the Array Deployment Mechanism for the Genesis spacecraft that return samples of the solar wind back to earth recently. Some of the commercial and military space applications I have been instrumental in include the mechanical design and analysis of the motors used to position the antennas on spacecraft used to transmit Sirius Satellite radio as well as antenna pointing actuators for military communications spacecraft. Some of the more interesting non space related projects I have been involved in include the design of a robot for non-invasive surgical procedures and the linear actuator to open and close the canopy of the new F-22 Raptor Advanced Tactical Fighter.

Do you have any hobbies?

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I enjoy riding my Yamaha R1 Sportbike in the mountains on Sundays. I find the time alone on the road allows me to relax and focus for the week ahead.

Douglas Petercsak:
  Background Information
  Contributions to Mars Exploration
  Personal Reflections