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Online From Jupiter 97

Chris Potts

Navigation Team Member, Trajectory Analysis

a photo of Chris Potts with his wife and their German Shepard

My name is Chris Potts. I am a member of the Galileo Navigation Team where I work on trajectory correction maneuver analysis. Previously, I performed the same job for the Voyager 2 spacecraft during its encounters with the planets Uranus and Neptune. I get to design the velocity corrections that keep the Galileo spacecraft on the desired flight path to Jupiter and maintain the proper course while in orbit about Jupiter. We call a trajectory correction maneuver a "TCM" for short. The spacecraft executes a TCM by generally rotating or turning its orientation so that the propulsion thrusters can fire in the proper direction. Then we tell the spacecraft when and how long to fire its thrusters to get the precise velocity change we computed here on Earth. By the way, we check our answer many different ways to catch any mistakes! We also monitor the TCM performance to make sure things are executing as planned. When the thruster firing is complete, the spacecraft turns back to its original orientation. The spacecraft is now back on track for the upcoming target.

I really enjoy the challenges my job presents. The bigger the challenge, the greater the sense of accomplishment when you succeed. I enjoy looking at Jupiter in the night sky and imagining the Galileo spacecraft exploring a distant and largely unknown planetary system. I anticipate the unexpected that always seems to occur as we explore our solar system. The days I don't enjoy are when I've got too much to do and too little time.

Since both my parents are teachers, education was always a high priority in my family. My father was my science teacher for 3 different classes in high school at Oswego, Illinois. (Needless to say, I never messed around in that class.) I enjoyed Math and Physics and knew I wanted to go to college, but like most high school students, I didn't have a clue about a field of study. As I was searching for a field to enter, the newspapers began headlining pictures of Jupiter taken by the Voyager spacecraft. One of my father's former students, Neil Mottinger, visited our class and presented a slide show about the numerous robotic space exploration missions going on at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA. For the first time, I didn't want the class to end! The next stop for me was the University of Illinois to study Aeronautical/Astronautical engineering.

As much as I enjoy my job, I still find time for other activities. My hobbies include basketball, softball, backpacking, weightlifting, and watching the major team sports. I am a die-hard fan of the Chicago Bulls, Bears, Blackhawks, and Cubs (although I haven't completely forgiven baseball for the strike). My wife and I don't have any kids yet, but we've got our hands full with a friendly German Shepherd dog that loves to play hard.

 

 
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