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
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.
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. With
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
Stardust Interview: Earth Return - Ensuring Success
October 24, 2005