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LIVE FROM MARS: BIOGRAPHIES
R o g e r G i b b s
Deputy Project Manager, 2001 Mars Odyssey
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, NASA / Caltech
What do you need to get into this kind of work?
Well, there's a classic answer, and I'm almost hesitating because a lot of people groan when they hear this: if someone likes to do technical work, math is important. Almost anything that I know of that's involved with direct aspects of this, in terms of designing or building the spacecraft, involves engineering, and engineering requires someone to be pretty comfortable with mathematics. If you want to see somebody that has to know mathematics, the navigators (under the supervision of Bob Mase-see BIO), those guys are whizzes. People say, "Hey Roger, you know you build these things, you must be really smartů" but those navigators are the smart guys, I could never do that. It's fun to build these things. That, and communication skills, so if somebody wants to be involved in this kind of a business, if they're good with math and they want to go into engineering, great. The paper on my desk, and the Meeting Maker software is an indication that communication skills are very important.
There's an aspect to this job, we probably have had just before launch maybe 300 people working on this job, directly working on this job, and right now we probably have 110 people who are directly contributing to this job. The ability to put 110 people and forge them into a team that moves forward towards one objective involves a lot of communication skills. I think when I was growing up, either they didn't teach it or I didn't realize that communication skills are very important for team efforts, and more and more of what we do in our society involves those kinds of skills.