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Meet: Jim McGuire

Neurolab Program Manager NASA Headquarters

photo of jim mcguire

What I do

I work at NASA Headquarters and have been the program manager for the seven Spacelab missions since 1987. Essentially, I'm the program's representative at Headquarters. I'm their advocate when it comes to budget (getting the money to do what needs to be done) and keeping Congress and the public informed about what we're doing and why.

My Career Journey

I've worked for NASA for 34 years. I started off designing instrumentation for environmental test systems that were used to prepare satellites for launch. Then, I worked my way up through the various stages of building, testing and flying science satellites. These included weather, atmospheric science, and astronomy satellites.

I had taken ROTC in college so I spent two and a half years in the military, one year in Vietnam (1963). (I went to Vietnam so early that I'm not considered a Vietnam veteran). After satisfying my military commitment, I just wanted to work for NASA. I was an electronics major with a minor in philosophy.


I listened to my older brother because I saw all the things that he went through and all the lessons he learned so, I asked his advice. I was always science and engineering inclined. I liked to build or fix things and he suggested that I go into electronics. That sounded reasonable, so I did.

Likes/Dislikes about career

Where there's an opportunity for great success, there's always the same opportunity to fail. The first program I worked on wound up in the ocean. During the launch of an astronomy satellite, the faring that protects the satellite during the early stages of launch did not didn't come off. So, the satellite could not reach orbit. I had only worked on it for 2 years, but knowing that some people had worked on it for 10 years and to have it fail was devastating. But, I was also fortunate enough to be a part of many successes. I've learned that I have to accept the failures along with the successes or a career in the "space business" will drive one crazy.


Have fun along the way; seize the moment to have fun as you're doing things, rather than waiting up to the end when you finally reach your "goal" and you ask yourself, "Gee, is this it?"

Surround yourself with people who are positive and who want to make a difference in life.

Never give up, especially learning. Sometimes you think, "I can't learn that." Then, if you keep at it long enough, it comes. Be persistent and unreasonable! Mother Teresa was persistent and unreasonable. It wasn't reasonable to do all that work with those people because there are so many of them you really can't make a difference. But she did it one step at a time. And, she made a big difference.

Don't compete against each other. Compete against the standards. The summer after I graduated high school was my best. It started when 20 members of my class went to an amusement park in the back of a coal truck. A classmate's father hosed it out and put a carpet in. (OSHA would never go along with this.) We had a blast. This started a series of outings that lasted throughout the whole summer. Why did we have so much fun? I think we realized that all the competition was over. It was alright to be the smartest and it was alright not to be the smartest, etc.. This enabled us to bond as we were never able to do before. It was a shame that we had to wait until we graduated to really enjoy each other.

Personal Information

I enjoy working with teenagers. I am an advisor for a Key Club, which is Kiwanis for high schools, at Arundel High School in Gambrils MD. It is a service organization for the school and in the community. We have over 75 members of the club. I enjoy kids going out and doing things for other people and having fun at it.

I enjoy high fidelity: sound systems, surround sound, recording. I love to do things that are free - hiking in the woods, attending community band concerts, volunteering at the various Kiwanis functions, etc..

I have a great wife and four super children. One is an engineer. He followed in his father's footsteps - Not working for NASA but for NSA (he forgot an "A").


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