Keith Novak was born in Oxford, Ohio in 1960 to a young naval officer and his wife, a Spanish professor. Keith (the Navy brat) moved around quite a bit as a child, spending some time in exotic places such as Kenitra, Morocco, but mostly living on Navy bases up and down the Eastern Seaboard of the U.S. (from Groton, Connecticut to Jacksonville, Florida and many places in between). Keith went to high school in Annapolis, MD where he enjoyed sailing on the Chesapeake Bay.
Keith graduated cum laude from Duke University, in Durham NC, with a B.S. in Engineering in 1982. He then headed west to Phoenix, Arizona for graduate training in Mechanical Engineering at Arizona State University, where he received a M.S. degree in 1985. The images of Mars taken by Mars Pathfinder remind Keith of the terrain outside Phoenix, minus of course, the Saguaro cacti and creosote bushes.
Keith worked for 6 years at Motorola, Inc. in Scottsdale, AZ doing thermal design of electronics boxes. In fact, while at Motorola, Keith helped design the Deep Space Transponder, which was the receiver on the Mars Pathfinder lander.
In 1991, Keith contemplated a move from Arizona to California, at just about the time when the aerospace industry in Southern California hit rock bottom (layoffs, hiring freezes, etc.). As luck would have it, he had one interview (at JPL), one offer (from JPL) and happily accepted the job as a thermal design engineer on the Cassini project (NASA's mission to Saturn). He worked 4 years on Cassini, 3 years on Mars Pathfinder and has worked the last 4 years on Mars Sample Return, Mars Scouts and most recently on the Mars Exploration Rover.
As the MER Rover thermal design cognizant engineer, Keith was responsible for the thermal design, analysis and testing of the Rover. Keith is looking forward to serving on the Mission Operations Team from launch (May/June 2003) through landing (Jan. 2004) and surface operations.
Keith has fond memories of working on the Mars Pathfinder Mission Operations Team back in 1997. The thrill of seeing the first images come down from the Mars Pathfinder lander is one he will never forget. Also, it was pretty cool to go to Dodger Stadium and walk out on the field with other members of the Ops Team for a ceremony before a game.
Keith lives with his wife, Germaine, and three children in South Pasadena, CA.