Online from Jupiter 97
Dust Detector (DDS) and Magnetometer (MAG) Science Coordinator
My name is Duane Bindschadler and I am a Science Coordinator for the Dust Detector (DDS) and Magnetometer (MAG) instruments, two of the scientific instruments carried by Galileo as it travels to Jupiter. DDS is designed to study very small dust particles (as small as the ones that make up cigarette smoke) that are found in the vicinity of Jupiter. MAG will measure Jupiter's powerful magnetic field during Galileo's two-year tour.
As one of the three members of the MAG/DDS team, I share the responsibility for creating the sequence of commands that Galileo's computer will use during each orbit to tell MAG and DDS what observations to make and how to make them. Galileo will make 12 complete orbits of Jupiter during the planned mission period. Each orbit has its own particular sequence of commands. Developing the sequence of commands for each orbit is a complex process, so we put together a sequence in careful coordination with other instrument teams and with the engineers who are responsible for maintaining Galileo during its tour of the Jupiter system. I also will be helping to monitor the performance of the MAG and DDS instruments during Galileo's Tour to make sure that we bring back the best possible set of data for scientists to analyze.
The other two members of the MAG/DDS Team are the Team Chief, Carol Polanskey, and Yi Mei, who is, like me, a Science Coordinator. Carol has been working on the Galileo Project for over five years; Yi for about two and a half years. I joined the project in mid-summer of '95, but even after a year and a half I feel like there is more to learn about how MAG and DDS work and communicate with the Galileo spacecraft. Before Galileo, I worked as a Planetary Geologist and Geophysicist at UCLA. Most of my research there involved examining data returned from Venus by the Magellan spacecraft. I also taught a class at UCLA called "Origin and Evolution of the Solar System."
I enjoy my job at Galileo. Right now it keeps me very busy with trying to learn the many things I need to know in order to do my job as best I can. I'm learning how to use a variety of software packages on several different computers, I'm learning the details of how the MAG and DDS instruments operate, and I'm learning as much possible about how the spacecraft as a whole operates. Sometimes it is all a little overwhelming! Many of the people who work on the Galileo Project have been here for several years, and take for granted things that I'm just beginning to understand. So I try to ask a lot of questions, even if I feel like "everyone knows that." I'm surprised at how often other people listen intently to the answers, or suddenly start taking notes.
I'm married, and my wife, Lisa, and I have two children, Nathan, who is seven and in 2nd grade, and Rachel, who is 5 and in kindergarten. We live in Venice, which on the west side of Los Angeles, near the beach. Like Venice itself, our family is a mix of different people. Lisa is Black and grew up in Brooklyn, New York, and in Jackson, Mississippi. My great-grandparents are mostly from German, Swiss, and English backgrounds, and I grew up in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Nathan and Rachel are both adopted, and both have one birthparent who is Black and one who is White. Of course, like most families, our differences aren't nearly as important as the mutual love and respect that hold us together.
Some of you may wonder what kind of training one needs to work on a project like Galileo. I have a Bachelor's Degree in Physics, and a Master's and Ph.D. in Geological Sciences. But the degrees probably aren't the most important things. Obviously, a solid background in math and science is very important. But so are the desire for excellence, a hunger to learn new things, and the initiative and ability to be a "self-starter." I think that Physics is a very good major for someone who is generally interested in a scientific or technical career. In addition to the quantitative skills that it teaches, the Physics major requires discipline and helps to teach you how to approach and solve a variety of problems. These are qualities that can help you in many different careers. For me, they have helped in making the switch from a science and teaching career to a more technical one. One other part of my training that I think has been particularly important is what I've learned about computers. Although I've only taken two Computer Science courses in my life, I've used computers extensively since my undergraduate days. Computers are really just tools -- a means to your ends. But they are also very complex and powerful tools, and the more you understand about them, the more powerful the uses you can put them to.
Like many of the people who work for NASA, I grew up reading science fiction and watching, fascinated, as the Apollo astronauts succeeded in extending the human adventure all the way to Earth's Moon and back. One of the reasons that I've ended up working at JPL is the sense of wonder and adventure that come from helping to explore the universe around us. That sense of exploration is one of the finest things about NASA and the Space Program, and represents some of the best qualities in all of us. I hope that your participation in "Online From Jupiter 97" will allow you to capture some of that excitement.