Flight Software, Deep Impact
What's the coolest thing about Deep Impact?
My initial response to that is the software that's going to allow this puppy to fly itself for the last 24 hours of the mission. But then again, I would say that since I'm working with it. I think that the potential for substantial scientific gains with regard to the origins of the solar system and the makeup of comets is phenomenal. DS1 (a mission to an asteroid) pulled off an amazing feat last fall with their flyby of comet Borrelly, and hopefully we can build on their success and increase our understanding of comets even more. (DS1 was a mission to an asteroid but an extension to its schedule allowed for it to visit a comet and take some excellent images).
Why do you like working at Jet Propulsion Laboratory?
Easy. JPL is the most incredible space research facility around, not to mention one of the most important scientific research facilities in general. There's so much incredible stuff that goes on here every day, and it feels great to have even a small part in all the innovation and technological advances that come out of here on a regular basis. For me, it's very satisfying.
How did you end up in Aerospace?
Almost by accident. I have a few relatives who are involved in aerospace, but it never occurred to me that the aerospace industry might be for me - until I interned here at JPL two summers ago. After that, I was hooked. (Greg is now an employee at JPL.)
What do you do in your spare time?
Spare time? What's that? When I do have a few spare moments, they are usually consumed by one of the following activities:
- Playing my bass (a dark red Spector 4 string)
- Watching DVDs
- Playing XBOX (not a good thing to have around when you are pressed for time)
- Listening to music (one of my 600+ CD's)
Who in your life inspired you?
I would have to say that my family influenced me more than anything else. It was because of my grandfather that I became an engineer (and my three uncles who are also engineers). My parents taught me a lot about everything (even though they always wonder how the child of two people involved in finance could be so bad with money). They are my models for how I want to be. I guess I had it easy - I didn't have to look too far to find my inspiration.
What is one yet-to-be achieved life goal?
All of them. Among them are becoming a rock star, being the lead for a super-cool project (like Deep Impact!), and owning a mint condition 1964½ Mustang convertible.
Were you technically oriented as a young person?
Definitely. I can still remember toying with my grandfather's first computer. It was a 186, no hard drive; the best part was the hundreds of floppies that he needed just to get the thing to boot up. But I knew it inside and out at age 5. One of my favorite gifts from my early years was a circuit board that came with an instruction book on how to build things like an AM radio and a barometer. I played with that thing non-stop. And there's also the (very true) story of how I had the periodic table of the elements memorized when I was in kindergarten. (No, I don't remember it anymore.)
What was your favorite book as a young person?
"The Feynman Lectures" - just kidding. I think the book was called "Fox on Wheels", about a fox and all the zany adventures he gets into. I consider it to be comic genius to this day.
What did you want to become when you were young?
As long as I can remember I have wanted to be an engineer. At one point it was Mechanical, later it was Aerospace, and I settled on Electrical. But being around all those engineers at such an early age definitely had an impact on me. My family always tells me that they thought I was going to be an actor or a politician or a director, but personally I think I'm too much of a geek for all those things. I love technology and I love what I do - it's great to see years of working and wishing pay off.
If you weren't working in space exploration now, what might you be doing?
Hopefully something that's equally enjoyable, but I don't really know. Maybe playing bass in a highly successful band, maybe selling drinks to parched beachgoers in the Bahamas...I tend to let things happen and see where it leads me. I'd say this time it worked out pretty well.