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Meet: Cesar Sepulveda

Optical Engineer
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California

photo of cesar sepulveda


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 precision.

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.

Personal Information

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


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