Meet: Julie Anne Townsend
Avionics Systems Engineer
Jet Propulsion Laboratory
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.
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
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.
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.