Associate Director of Flight Projects, Satellite Servicing Projects Division
What kind of work do you do as the Associate Director of Flight Projects?
I'm responsible for the overall success of the division. This requires my cognizance and some level of involvement in everything that happens in SSPD; programmatic performance (meeting our commitments to our stakeholders), planning of schedules and budgets, program requirements definition, organization and staffing, contractor performance, adherence to federal and NASA/center regulations, acquisition of new work, and avoiding and solving all types of problems. The job requires constant communication with the SSPD organization, center management, NASA Headquarters, our contractors, our stakeholders, and the media. That's it in a nutshell.
What is your favorite part of the job?
My favorite part of this job is two aspects. The first is (and I know this may sound trite, but it's true), I get to work with really bright people who share the same passion I have for the aerospace business. Second, working in aerospace is the most fun and interesting thing a person can do, and we get paid for it! Rockets, satellites, space travel, science, engineering; it is absolutely the coolest stuff. The facilities we have at our disposal are the best in the world for enabling us to do what we do. All of this makes coming to work every day a real joy. We are all incredibly lucky to be a part of the great adventure of space exploration.
What first interested you in working for NASA?
I became interested in rockets and space travel as a little boy when I was in fourth or fifth grade (back in the early 1950s). My parents gave me a book on the subject and it fired an interest that has stayed with me ever since. When I graduated from college, I went to work for Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation (as it was then known) working as a thermal vacuum test engineer on the Apollo Lunar Module. It was incredibly exciting in many ways, not the least of which was we were in a Space race to the moon! When I found an opportunity to come work for NASA directly in 1991, it was a very easy decision for me.
Where did you go to high school and college, and what degrees did you receive?
I graduated from Garden City Senior High School in Long Island, NY, in 1961. I received a bachelor degree in physics from Adelphi University in Garden City in 1966.
How did your education prepare you for your work at NASA?
My degree in physics gave me the broad technical underpinnings to be able to understand and solve a wide variety of technical problems. When you're in college, your whole career is ahead of you and it's difficult to predict where the journey will take you. A broad technical foundation gives a potential opportunity to go in a wide variety of directions. People used to say that one doesn't "use" ninety percent of what is learned in college. While there may be some truth in that, what is more true is that most of the knowledge and skills one needs to perform a job are in fact learned on the job. I doubt that anyone in Satellite Servicing took a college course in that subject, but here we are doing it every day!
What made you want to work in satellite servicing? (i.e., what interests you most about it?)
I'm attracted to working in satellite servicing because it is probably the most interesting and challenging work to be done in the field of spaceflight, and we are doing pioneering work in this emerging technology field. We have the opportunity to change the way we explore space and to make space more accessible by lowering the cost for access and operating in space through the servicing of space assets. This, coupled with the potential of dramatic cost reductions in launch costs through reuse will change the face of space exploration.
How long have you been at NASA?
My involvement with NASA goes back to 1964 when I won a NASA research fellowship for my last two years of undergraduate studies. I worked as a NASA contractor for roughly half of my professional career, and I've been a NASA employee for 26 years.