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LIVE FROM MARS: lfm

Christopher Salvo
Flight Engineer
Jet Propulsion Laboratory

My Past Career Experiences

I have been working on spacecraft in general for about eight years. I have led teams of subsystem experts in the early concept phase of many spacecraft designs, starting with a blank sheet of paper and forming a spacecraft to accomplish a specific mission. I have also been involved in developing spacecraft technology during some of these design activities, contracting to different companies to try to build a better "widget"; lighter structures, smaller and more efficient radios, better power-generation devices. I like designing spacecraft and I hope to continue to do so for a long time. Operating them (like I am about to do on Pathfinder) should also be fun, but I don't think I would want to only operate them as my career. I like to design and build things. Hopefully I can continue to do both as I have done on Pathfinder.

Developing My Interests & Choosing My Career

I have been interested in how things work for as long as I can remember. I have always enjoyed taking things apart and learning about what makes them function (or not function when I was through with them!). I also liked to build things like models, wooden furniture, computers, stereos, rock walls, houses, cars (well, maybe not build from scratch but "rebuild")... you name it. My parents are big do-it-yourselfers, so I got the chance to help them build, rebuild, paint, refinish, remodel, assemble, fix, and break (it happens sometimes) lots of things. All of this is to say that I had an engineering and scientific interest that was nurtured by an environment that allowed me to experiment and experience things directly.

I was also (still am) interested in all manner of vehicles, especially aircraft and spacecraft. My parents were also very encouraging in this regard. My mom started to teach me to read before I went to school and I've been reading about all sorts of new things ever since. The first book I read on aviation was about early airplanes and pilots in Alaska (the book was titled "Alaska Bush Pilot." I can't remember the author, my apologies). I must have been in about the fourth grade. I always loved to read so I reached out for more, and I read about the Wright brothers and about warplanes from WWI and WWII and more modern aircraft. I read about Apollo and the other manned space missions, and I read about future concepts for air travel and space travel. I subscribed to the Smithsonian's "Air and Space" magazine, "Science," many others that I can't remember. I read everything I could get my hands on related to airplanes and space. I even ordered Time/Life Books' "The Epic of Flight" series, which consisted of about 20 books with great writing, photos, and drawings on various historical aircraft topics. I read every stitch in every one of those books, examined every picture: I remember being so excited when a new one would arrive. Science fascinated me, too, for the same sort of "how does it work?" reasons. I read Carl Sagan's "Cosmos" cover to cover. I highly recommend it. Science fiction also peaked my interest. Authors like Isaac Asimov (who managed to brilliantly move from real science to science fiction and back again), Larry Niven (both alone and with Jerry Pournelle), Arthur C. Clark, Carl Sagan again (with "Contact"), and L. Ron Hubbard (his "Battlefield Earth" is one of my all-time favorites) presented me with images of greatly advanced space-faring civilizations which further inspired me.

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