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Christopher Salvo
Flight Engineer
Jet Propulsion Laboratory

I also found the science subjects in school very interesting. Biology, math, physical science, these were all interesting, but my high school physics class was the big eye opener. It really made things come together for me. In this class I felt like I was discovering how the whole world worked. The math was stuff that I had done before or was currently doing (algebra, trigonometry, and basic calculus), but the application just blew me away. There were logical explanations and equations that described why a spinning wheel slows down eventually, or why a baseball follows the path that it does after you hit it, or how you can predict the path of two cars that crash together based on how massive they are and how fast they are going. It also taught me a little about energy and temperature (melting, boiling, and freezing of things), light, electricity, and optics, just a taste of lots of stuff, but really amazing stuff.

So, intrigued by my new knowledge of the world I went off to college (Texas A&M University) to learn more. I entered as an Electrical Engineering student. Why? Well, my dad worked at IBM, my sister was a recent EE graduate from the University of Texas, I liked computers and electronics and stuff. It was a logical choice. After the first semester, I decided that what I really liked was everything and that EE was too specific for me. I would prefer to learn how to design and build whole aircraft or spacecraft systems. So, I switched to Aerospace Engineering. This was a much better fit for me. I learned a lot about aerodynamics, as well as more of the foundation of all engineering, the physics. My experience from high school with physics and basic engineering mechanics was repeated and expanded upon. Now I began to understand in much more depth how to design things based on the physical laws that rule the universe.

While I was doing all of this discovering in college (which I so fondly remember, conveniently forgetting that it was a lot of hard work!), I had the opportunity to participate in the Cooperative Education Program. This program allows a student to alternate regular schooling with real professional work experience. So the summer before my junior year I went to California to work at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (the same place I work now). I would return two more times over the last part of my college schooling. It was during this experience that I discovered a distinct fascination for spacecraft. Not only were they complex and intriguing machines, but they performed such profound missions as landing on Mars, flying past Jupiter and Saturn, and observing the Earth from orbit. This was truly unusual stuff and I wanted to be a part of it.

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