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Two intriguing investigations -- One flight-proven spacecraft

Amanda Briden

Amanda Briden

Mission Planner, Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Amanda Briden

What is your job on the EPOXI mission?
My name is Amanda Briden and I am a Mission Planner at JPL working in the Systems Engineering division. On EPOXI, I have been assisting the Mission Design Lead with planning the Deep Space Network (DSN) passes, ensuring that all of the science and engineering data is sent back to Earth both before and after the Hartley 2 encounter.

My everyday work life involves learning, problem solving, communicating, and carefully managing my time. Currently, I am working on 3 programs and during the day I switch from being a mission planner on EPOXI, to evaluating mission risk and the reliability of S/C components on the Juno program, to a data processor who investigates trends overtime for GRACE (another flight program). Each day I learn something new about each program and am required to problem solve any task given to me. I am also responsible for meeting with team members to understand how their inputs should be incorporated into my work. Finally, I have to complete my work within the time constraints given to me. Thus, I am constantly prioritizing my time to make sure I get what needs to be done for each program.

How did you end up in Space Science?
My dad is a private pilot and I took my first plane ride with him when I was 6 weeks old. Thus, I grew up with aviation and loved it. My senior year of high school I received my private pilot's license. I knew I wanted to combine my passion for aviation and space with my skills in mathematics and science. Aeronautical engineering seemed like the perfect way to do that.

What do you do in your spare time?
In my free time, I enjoy:

  1. Running - I have been training for a ½ marathon coming up in March 2009
  2. Dancing - Lindy Hop swing dancing is a pastime of mine on the weekends
  3. Playing in the outdoors - Skiing, camping, hiking, snow shoeing, etc.

Who in your life inspired you?
I think my parents initially inspired me, as they never put limits on any dream I had. They always encouraged me to pursue my interests and to achieve my goals.
Later on in college, a role model of mine was my Orbital Mechanics professor who was always prepared for class, willing to help students, and was very enthusiastic about what she taught. You knew she loved her job. She was not only the best professor I had, she was also responsible for over 18 graduate students, was an editor for a scientific journal, and wrote papers for many conferences. She was inspiring because everything she put her name on was perfection, despite her extraordinarily busy schedule.

What is one yet-to-be achieved life goal?
I would like to go back and get my master's degree via distance learning as I continue working.

What subjects in school were you interested in as a young student?
As a young student, I enjoyed all subjects. I liked my science and math classes, but also enjoyed social studies (history), english (reading and formulating opinions about books I read), and violin lessons.

What did you want to become when you were young?
As a child, I was fascinated with space and wanted to be an astronaut. I loved reading books about the history of the human space program, astronauts, and science fiction. I also enjoyed movies such as Apollo 13 and The Right Stuff.

What advice would you give to aspiring engineers or scientists?
Work hard. Never give up on achieving something you really want. Get involved in activities you enjoy and take on leadership roles in them. Take AP science and math classes and go to college. Look into going to a school that is well respected in the type of engineering or science you are most interested in studying.

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