Meet: Cesar Sepulveda
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California
Who I Am
I spend my time on the Mars 2001 Rover as the lead optics engineer for
the Control and Navigation Subsystem. I also perform the equivalent task
for the Athena science payload.
There are at present fourteen cameras of four different types that will
be employed in the Rover: one sunsensor for celestial navigation, four
body-mounted wide-angle hazard cameras (hazcams) plus two more for looking
under the Rover (near the science payload area), all of a wide angle design.
There is also a pair of mast-mounted navigation cameras, as well as four
cameras for panoramic imaging ( with different filters to allow for color
imaging and infrared geomorphology) and a microscopic imager to be mounted
on the science arm, along with other scientific instruments, to provide
detailed imaging of rocks and soils.
How I Got Here
I guess I was always cut out for a career in science or engineering.
I always had a great interest in finding out how things worked, from mechanical
things to the universe around me. This led to my choosing Physics as a
major at the University of Mexico, where I got my undergraduate degree.
Optics was always part of my interest, so I naturally gravitated to graduate
school at the Optical Sciences Center, University of Arizona, where I
got my master of science degree in optics. I now realize it was hard work,
but at the time it was great fun just to be there and learning all I could
about my chosen field.
Likes and Dislikes About This Job
I like this job because it involves a great deal ofproblem solving. Almost
any optical design required to do science observation or perform navigation
has some challenging requirements: wide-band or wide-angle imaging, robust
designs to protect it from low temperatures, near-vacuum operation, the
shock of launch, etc., all this while also requiring pinpoint imaging
My job is never boring. There always seem to be issues that have to
be resolved, sometimes due to competing rquirements from other subsystems
that have nothing to do with the original science or engineering requirements.
I consider this part of the challenge of working in this exciting field.
When I Was a Kid
As a kid, I had a great curiosity about everything that surrounded me.
It was a family joke that I would end up as a scientist, probably working
for NASA (the archetypal absent-minded professor) I guess we never realized
how correct this would prove to be in the end!
I always seemed to be taking my brothers' and sisters' toys apart, just
to see what made them work. However, I did not always put them back together
once my curiosity was satisfied.
I always liked math and science and astronomy, and delighted my classmates
with some experiment or other which I had running under my desk. My teachers
certainly did not like the competition for attention, so I would sometimes
get sent to the principal's office.
My only advice is this: find something you REALLY love to do, and be
very passionate about it. You will discover that you will become good
at it, and people will recognize your ability. I am very fortunate to
have chosen a career in which my everyday work is exciting and varied.
I am single and live in Glendale, California. When I am not engaged
in the excitement of my job, I am involved with several choirs, one of
them at a local church, with which I often perform in Sunday services
and public concerts. This has also given me the opportunity to travel
on concert tour twice to Europe, once to Russia, the Baltic and Scandinavia,
and once to Scotland and England. Next year we are planning to go on a
two-week concert tour to Ireland; I am fondly looking forward to that!
Even though I never thought of myself as a daredevil, I have also been
involved in rock climbing, sailplaning and scuba diving. At present, my
recreation takes the form of swimming, which I have always loved dearly.
I grew up in Mexico City, where I went to school and college. Afterwards,
I transferred to the University of Arizona to attend graduate school,
and from there, my first "real" job was with NASA, at the Jet Propulsion
Laboratory. It has been 17 extremely interesting years, and I hope to
continue for a long time to come
Learn more from my chats
April 8, 1998