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Meet: Julie Anne Townsend

Avionics Systems Engineer
Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Picture of Julie Townsend

Who I Am

When I was 4 years old, I told my mom I was going to "go up in a rocket" some day. Everyone forgot all about that until just before I started highschool. That summer, I took a class about planets and orbits and how to design model rockets. I loved it! From then on, I always wanted to be an Astronautical Engineer.

Image of Julie as a childWhile I was in college, I spent one summer at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center. That was the summer that the Mars Pathfinder lander and Sojourner rover landed on Mars. Watching the Pathfinder mission, I thought that working on Mars rovers at JPL must be just about the coolest job ever. (Now that it's my job, I'm pretty sure that's true!)

I have a bachelor's degree in Aeronautics and Astronautics from MIT and a Master's degree in the same subject from Stanford University.

What I Do
Image of Julie with one of the I am an Avionics Systems Engineer, and I work on the Mars Exploration Rovers. Avionics are the electronics and software that control everything on a spacecraft, from the maneuvering rockets that steer it to Mars to the robotic arm that it will use on the Mars surface to investigate rocks. I work on fault protection, figuring out how the spacecraft can react automatically to problems and keep itself safe.

After the Mars Exploration Rovers have finished their mission, I plan to go back to Stanford University to study for a Ph.D in robotics. Then I'd like to work on developing better and smarter robots, perhaps for future exploration of Mars or other planets. I hope that someday I will have a chance to travel in space myself.

Free time!

My parents live in Birmingham, Michigan (a suburb of Detroit), which is where my brother and sister and I grew up. I went to Quarton Elementary School, Covington Middle School, and Seaholm High School.

I now live in Pasadena, California with my goldfish, Orion, who is named after my favorite constellation. Sometimes I love doing quiet things, like playing the piano or reading. My favorite books are fantasy novels with lots of exploration and adventure and classic romances. I especially like the novels of Jane Austen and Charles Dickens. Other times, I love doing active things, like volleyball or karate. I've been practicing karate for about a year, and I have a white belt with a 5th kyu ranking. I hope to earn my brown belt soon. I also love camping and hiking and running and anything that gives me an excuse to be outside.


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