Meet: Richard Cook
Flight Operations Manager
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California
Who I Am
I am the flight operations manager for Mars Pathfinder. This means that
I am responsible for running the day-to-day operations of the spacecraft
after launch. My background is in aerospace engineering, specifically
the design, development and operation of space missions. I started on
Mars Pathfinder five years ago, and my first job was to identify the interplanetary
trajectory we will use to get to Mars.
My Career Journey
I have always been interested in math, science and space exploration,
but I really didn't decide to be an aerospace engineer until I got to
college. I got a BS in Engineering Physics from the University of Colorado
in Boulder. CU has a good aerospace engineering department, so I ended
up taking some classes in orbital mechanics and space mission design.
It was so interesting that I decided to get my MS in Aerospace Engineering
at the University of Texas in Austin. After graduating from UT in 1989,
I came to JPL and have been here ever since.
My parents had the greatest effect on steering me toward math and science.
My dad was a geophysicist for a large oil company, so I got interested
in science early. I also had a couple of professors in college who got
me specifically interested in aerospace engineering and orbital mechanics.
Likes/Dislikes About Job
The best things about my job are the technical challenge of building
a spacecraft and sending it to Mars and the great team of people we have
working on Mars Pathfinder. It has been an amazing experience to see an
interplanetary spacecraft built from what started as a set of viewgraphs.
The people who work on Pathfinder are some of the best at JPL. We have
created a real team atmosphere, partially because we are doing something
new, innovative and difficult. The part of my job I like the least is
going to all the meetings that this job seems to require. We don't always
get very much done at these meetings, but they are a necessary evil.
I live in San Gabriel, Calif. with my wife and brand new baby girl (age
three months). She is our first child, but we also have two cats. We spend
our free time working around the house and yard, cooking and playing with
our baby. We like going out to dinner, watching movies and reading books.
My wife and I grew up near Denver, so we also like to ski (but don't get
many chances in Southern Calif.). When I was a kid, I thought I would
be a geologist when I grew up. That's kind of funny now, because I work
with a lot of geologists. One day I hope I can work on a sample return
mission that will bring back a rock for those geologist to look at.