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Shonte Wright
Thermal Systems Cognizant Engineer ("Cog-E") for
Mars Exploration Rovers mission
NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California

P2K: Sports has also been pretty important in your life. How did sports get you ready for this career? How is sports somewhat like being on the spacecraft team?

Shonte Wright: Sports was very, very helpful. While on the Mars Exploration Rovers mission I was a thermal systems engineer. And you have to be a true team player when you're working on a mission like the Mars Exploration Rovers mission. The Mars Exploration Rovers mission is basically comprised of several subsystems, and all of the subsystems have to work together just as a team on, say, a basketball court, or football field actually has to work together. I have to recognize that if I choose to use a particular piece of hardware, that is something that could effect the power subsystem, it could effect the mechanical subsystem from the standpoint of it could weigh more than they are expecting, which could result in their needing to add weight to another portion of the spacecraft to balance it. And it's also something that could really alter the field of view of a piece of hardware, such as a camera, looking out to space. So it's really important that I'm mindful of those kinds of things. And you know when you're a team player, for instance, if you're playing basketball, if someone is not doing their job and you have to come over and help them on defense, then you're leaving your person wide open. So you just have to realize that everyone has a job to do, and that if you don't do your job then you are holding up the team and you are hindering the process.

From the standpoint of risk, what we do is very risky. If you hit a sharp rock it's pretty much over. So you have to just accept the fact that you are dealing with a great deal of risk. You have to recognize the fact there could be something catastrophic that could end your mission, but although you think about those things, you also think about the fact that this is something that is incredible. This is something that is going to change the way we view another planet, and will change the way we view our own planet. And when you think about the positives that are associated with this mission you often tend to put those negatives further in the back of your mind.

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