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hirst_s.jpg Edward Hirst has been an employee of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory since July 1993. He started his career with mission planning and outreach on the Galileo project. He has since continued with mission planning duties on the Stardust and Genesis projects. He was recently appointed to the Mission Manager position on the Genesis project, and the Mission System Manager on the Stardust project.

Mr. Hirst received his B.S. degree in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Texas at Austin in 1993. He was born in Guatemala City, Guatemala, in 1970, and now resides in La Crescenta, California.

Hi! My name is Edward Hirst. I have been working at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory since July 19, 1993. I started on the Galileo Project as part of the Mission Planning and Outreach Coordination Office. At its name implies, I did both planning and outreach, but I spent most of my time doing planning tasks. These tasks varied in nature and ranged from tracking Deep Space Network (DSN) antenna allocations to developing key mission strategies and planning guidelines.

Since my early teens I have been interested in airplanes and spacecraft. My family had its fair share of aeronautic related careers. My grandfather, Charles, was one of the first commercial airline pilots to fly regularly into Central America. He worked for a Guatemalan airline called "Aerovias de Guatemala" (today part of Grupo Taca) and his regular route involved flying from Guatemala City to New Orleans to Belize City. He got his pilot's license at 16 in New York. I also had an uncle, George, that flew crop dusters in southern Guatemala. I remember many summer vacations when he would take my siblings and me up for a spin. Both he, and another uncle, Bobby, were trained to fly by Grampa. George's son, my cousin, Jorge, is now a pilot and flies for a number of companies in Guatemala. My father, Charles, also had a career in aeronautics. He went to Parks Air College (now part of St. Louis University and got his private pilot license there. He served in the U.S. Air Force for 23 years before retiring. He did a variety of different jobs including being crew chief on a C-123 in the Vietnam War. He spent the last 11 years of his career stationed in the Canal Zone, Panama teaching aircraft mechanics to armed forces students from a variety of Central American countries.

I must also give due credit to the media. I grew up during the '70s and '80s which featured movies like the Star Wars trilogy, Battlestar Galactica and 2001 (which I saw for the first time when I was 8 years old and all I remember is falling asleep!). I can't really say that the Apollo program influenced me since I was not even born when Apollo 11 first landed on the Moon! However, the first Space Shuttle flight was in 1981 and it most certainly had a large effect on me. I also remember a 3rd grade letter writing exercise in which we were asked to pick a name off a list of companies and write a letter requesting free materials. I happened to pick a company named "Jet Propulsion Laboratory". I thought to myself: 'Cool! Jet engines and rockets and fire and stuff!'. Boy was I surprised when I received a bunch of pictures of planets! Little did I know that I would end up working at JPL.

I would have to say that the first 'real' notion of a career in aerospace did not come until early in my high school years. At the time, I was living in Guatemala City. There were no colleges in Guatemala that offered Aerospace as a career major, but going directly from a Guatemalan high school to a U.S. college was more difficult than what I was willing to try. I decided to start college in Guatemala and spent the next two and a half years taking basic physics and math courses. In that time, I completed the requirements and acquired a B.S. in Math and Physics from the Universidad del Valle de Guatemala, a small college of about 3000 students. I spent my last year in Guatemala applying to the Aerospace Engineering Department of the University of Texas at Austin. My older sister, Maria,and older brother, Charlie, were both already studying there. I had a place to crash! Besides, UT Austin had a highly ranked engineering department. After my transfer to UT Austin, it was decided that only one year of my course work in Guatemala was applicable to the course work required for the 4yr B.S. Aerospace degree. I spent the next 3 years completing the degree requirements. The Aerospace degree offered two technical areas: Aeronautics and Aerospace. I elected to go the Aerospace route and took courses like "Advanced Celestial Mechanics" and "Space Mission Design".

A year prior to graduation, I began thinking about the 'what comes next?' question. Fortunately, the engineering department at UT Austin had a very good job placement program and we had many opportunities to interview with interested companies. Unfortunately, the aerospace business had begun a decline and at many of my interviews I heard statements like: 'We are in a hiring freeze and are here just to maintain a presence on campus'. Believe me, it was very frustrating. I decided to apply to graduate school (a popular backup plan for many of my classmates) and was accepted to a number of programs. Although it was not my first choice, I started preparing myself for this fate. During my job search, I had interviewed with JPL and had given them my resume. It was not long into the summer when I received a call and was invited out to JPL for an on-site interview which went fairly well. Approximately a month later, I called JPL to check on the status of my interview and was informed that they had a job for me.

I have since left Galileo, and am now working on the Genesis and Stardust projects. Both projects are Discovery class NASA missions, and both have Lockheed Martin Astronautics in Denver as their industry partner. Both projects are sample return missions. I trust you can see the common ground. Genesis collects solar wind samples from December 2001 until April 2004, and then returns those samples to Earth in September 2004. I am the Mission Manager on the Genesis project. The Mission Manager is responsible for ensuring that all operations on the project are planned and executed. Stardust collects comet dust samples during a flyby of comet Wild 2 on January 2, 2004, and then returns those samples to Earth in January 2006. I am the Mission Planner on the Stardust project.

The best thing about my area of interest, mission design and planning, is that I get to learn just enough about everything on the spacecraft and the mission to understand globally what the mission is about, what the spacecraft is capable of, and what we have to accomplish for the project to be a success.

hirst1_t.jpgOutside of the office, I like to keep active with sports. I play basketball regularly at the California Institute of Technology's Braun gym on Saturday mornings, and in a La Crescenta city league on Tuesday night. Whenever I get a chance, I also enjoy bodyboarding. Locally in the Los Angeles area, I frequently surf at Zuma beach and the LA-Ventura County Line. hirst2_t.jpgWith my brother Charlie and friend Ted, I've also been able to do some surf travel. While at UT, we occasionally went to the Gulf to surf, but since then we've been to Guatemala, Costa Rica, Cabo San Lucas, Hawaii (in the summer), El Salvador, and Nicaragua. See the pics from the Nicaragua trip. Ted and Charlie are talking about going out to the Maldives in Spring 2004! I'll be busy here at work!

I met my girlfriend, Alicia, here at JPL. We both worked on Galileo. Although my grandmother, Lola, had introduced me to tea early in my life, Alicia and I found it was something we had in common. Alicia turned me on to Masala Chai! She lives in Rochester, New York and is a Visiting Professor at the Rochester Institute of Technology.

Most of my immediate family lives in Guatemala, Central America. I was born there in 1970. My father, Charlie, passed away in May 2001. We all miss him dearly. My mother, Carmen, lives on a small farm on the outskirts of Guatemala city. Her identical twin sister, Blanca, also has a house on the farm. The farm in no longer active, and the land has been parsed out to my generation. My two sisters, Maria and Louise, are now married, have children, and have homes on the property. Several of my cousins have also done the same. The result is a very supportive family environment. My brother, Charlie, is also married, to Cathy, who is also Ted's (surf buddy) sister. They also have kids, but live on the other side of the world, in Bahrain! Too far!

Anyway, that is a bit of who I am. Hope you've enjoyed reading.

Stardust Interview: Earth Return - Ensuring Success

Photo of Ed Hirst, Stardust Mission Systems Manager Ed Hirst, Stardust Mission Systems Manager

What is the Stardust team doing now?
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How does the project ensure a successful return?
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Last updated October 24, 2005
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