Program Executive, NASA Headquarters
What's the coolest thing about EPOXI?
We've taken a spacecraft that already had an incredibly successful mission - Deep Impact - and have now sent it to another place in the Solar System to investigate the nature of another comet, and, Oh by the way, had it look for evidence of planets orbiting other stars while it was getting there.
Why do you like working at NASA Headquarters?
NASA HQ is such a wonderfully dynamic environment where you get to see everything that the US and other countries are doing in space, and the hard work and persistence it takes from everyone to make a successful space mission happen.
What is your job on the EPOXI mission?
Basically I take care of the project and mission at the NASA HQ level, making sure it gets the attention and resources (read funding) needed to succeed, but also to track its progress and accomplishments to make sure NASA is getting from the project what the taxpayer paid for.
How did you end up in Space Science?
I have always been interested in space from a very early age. I was an amateur astronomer and built model rockets from about the age of 10. I majored in Astronomy and Space Physics in college and entered the Air Force through the college ROTC program to work in the space program. After 23 years of service, always working on space systems including Department of Defense shuttle missions, I retired and went to work for NASA in solar system exploration. [bio]
What do you do in your spare time?
I own a small piston engine aircraft, a Cessna Cardinal, that I love to fly around the Chesapeake Bay area.
Who in your life inspired you?
I must say the Apollo Program astronauts, particularly the Apollo 8 and Apollo 11 crews. I was age eleven and twelve during those missions and I was fascinated by men first orbiting another world and then landing on it. I changed the spelling of my middle name, from "Neal" to "Neil", because that's how Neil Armstrong spelled it!
What is one yet-to-be achieved life goal?
Silly question - to go into space!
Were you science-oriented as a young person?
Yes, my "toys" as a child were microscopes and chemistry sets, and then telescopes and model rockets.
What was your favorite book as a young person?
A book my mother gave me when I was learning to read, You Will Go to the Moon! (an I Can Read It All By Myself Beginner Book). I still have it!
What did you want to become when you were young?
No question, I was going to be an astronaut.
If you weren't working in space exploration now, what might you be doing?
Probably still working somewhere in the aerospace industry and general aviation, maybe helping to operate a small, general aviation airport somewhere.