Meet: Guy Beutelschies
Mars Pathfinder Test Director
Currently on assignment at the Kennedy Space Center, Florida
What I Do
I work for the Mars Pathfinder project. This is an unmanned spacecraft
that will be launched December 2, 1996 and will land July 4, 1997. It
contains a camera to survey the landing site, a weather station to record
temperatures and atmospheric pressures, and a rover. The rover is a small
remote-controlled vehicle that will drive around and analyze rocks and
My job as test director involves leading a team that tests the spacecraft
to make sure everything works. The first step is to learn what the spacecraft
can do and what the scientists and engineers want it to do. This is a
little easier for me because I was one of the engineers who helped design
it. In order to make sure everything gets tested, I have made a list of
every function the spacecraft performs. I then take these functions and
allocate them to specific tests.
The second step is to write test procedures. These procedures contain
the steps necessary to make the spacecraft perform a certain activity
and the things we need to look for in order to make sure it is performing
The third step is to actually run the test. This is the most exciting
part because the spacecraft never seems to behave exactly as expected.
When you find something unexpected, you have to respond quickly--is it
a problem you can work around or is it something dangerous enough to call
off the test. We are dealing with equipment that costs millions of dollars
so we have to be very careful in what we are doing. On the other hand,
launch is scheduled for December so we don't have as much time as we'd
like to get all the testing done. If we don't make the December launch,
we will have to wait over a year and a half before Mars and Earth line
up again to allow us to launch (and there isn't enough money to pay people
to wait around that long!).
The last step is go back to the design engineers to tell them what we
learned from the test and what they have to fix in order to make everything
work. Finally, we run the test again and again until everything works
All of the testing has been completed at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory
(JPL) in Pasadena, Calif., where Mars Pathfinder was built. It is now
at Kennedy Space Center in Florida being prepared for launch. We had to
disassemble the spacecraft in order to install fresh batteries, pyrotechnic
devices, and radioactive curium in one of the science instruments. We
are now rebuilding the spacecraft and my job is to test it at every step
along the way to make sure that every component is still working.
Pathfinder will be mounted on a Delta II rocket in November. We will
then watch data from the spacecraft during the launch countdown. One of
the best parts about my job is that I get to be the one to tell the launch
director that the spacecraft is "Go for Launch!"
I grew up in Denver, Colorado and got a B.S degree in Aerospace Engineering
from the University of Colorado (Go Buffs!). I have been working at JPL
since 1986 when I got out of school. I went to night school while working
at JPL and got a M.S. degree in Engineering from the University of Southern
I am 32 years old and live in La Crescenta California, which is about
10 miles away from Pasadena. Since I'm from Colorado, I'm into skiing.
There is nothing like bouncing down a mogul field with a foot of fresh
Colorado powder. Since I live in Southern California, I also play a lot
of volleyball (both beach and indoor). I live by myself in a small house
where I have done several home improvement projects. The last one was
remodeling a bathroom, which would have been a lot easier if it wasn't
the only one in the whole house.
When I was in second grade I wanted to be an astronaut. I probably got
the idea from watching the Apollo missions on television. I started reading
science fiction about then and have been fascinated with space and the
future ever since. I was fairly good at math and science, although I was
never a straight A student. I got interested in engineering because my
best friend in high school was going into it and I didn't have a better
choice. It turned out to be the right choice for me because I like to
solve problems, which is what engineers do. Whether it is solving a crossword
puzzle, figuring out a riddle, or working out how to locate Earth when
Pathfinder is sitting on the surface of Mars, I get a lot of satisfaction
when I find the answer.
What I Like About My Job
Besides getting paid for work I consider fun, the best part about my
job is knowing that future generations will read about the explorations
of a spacecraft that I helped to build.