I'm a senior electronic technician and telescope operator. I've been around for about
4 years and I've been involved in just about every aspect of the project from designing
and building equipment to operating and maintaining cryogenic, pneumatic, electronic, and
mechanical systems. Currently, I'm responsible for operating the telescope in flight and
monitoring all the various systems that make it work. On the ground I do maintenance of
the telescope and its various systems such as high pressure air compressors, cryogenics,
power amplifiers, etc. I spent the first three years flying extensively but now I fly
less often and am more involved in the electronic maintenance end. For the LIve From The
Stratosphere project I designed the constructed the video system on the KAO.
I spent 13 years as a television news technician and cameraman. I'm a commercial
airplane and helicopter pilot and always kept my eye open for interesting
aviation-related stories the station could do. While working at KTVU I learned of the
KAO and managed to get a ride on it while doing a news story about it. After covering
drive-by shootings, hostage situations, and every other type of bad news for 13 years I
finally burned out on TV news, and 7 years later here I am. I think many opportunities
present themselves with no warning. The trick is to recognize one when you see it and to
be prepared and ready. My personal motivation was to get involved in a project that I
thought had some socially redeeming value and offered an opportunity to fly and travel.
I have always been interested in aviation and electronics. My idea of an ideal job
would be to combine flying and working with complex electronic systems but I had no idea
that there were such jobs until I read an article in the paper one day about the KAO. At
the time I was a broadcast engineer working for a big TV station's news department. I
always made it a point to try to talk the station into doing at least one aviation
related story a year so I could get a ride in a neat aircraft. I was very fortunate to
work out all the details and set up a news shoot on the KAO.
As it turned out, it was a short flight because a mechanical problem forced us to
return early, but it was long enough to rekindle my desire to move into this type of
work. I spent the next six years trying to keep in touch with the few people I had met
that evening and wait for an opening. Then one day I was scanning through the want ads
and there it was... Telescope operator to work on a NASA research aircraft. International
travel required. I jumped on it with everything I had and got the job. We left for New
Zealand two weeks later!
I really like working with a tight knit group of people that I greatly respect. We're
like a family on the KAO project. Some people work for the Government and some for a
contractor, but we are all very close. When we go on deployment we spend months together
on the road eating, working, and playing together. We share our rental cars and go off to
town together on our occasional days off. The work can be intense even under "normal"
conditions and all this breeds a real closeness that I enjoy greatly.
What I like least of course is the fact that the project is shutting down for good
after the last LFS flight on the 13th of October. But I suppose the night flying would be
at the top of the list otherwise. It's really difficult to rotate your schedule around
and fly all night a couple times a week and work days the other days. That's a killer.
You can get away with that when your a you're a wipper snapper but an old geezer like me
has a problem with it.
This project can point to some important discoveries. They will be there long after
the players are gone.I think the most enjoyable missions I've been on were Shoemaker/Levy
9 and Comet Halley. They took a lot of advanced planning and required very specific
timing, but they were unique events, and we had the opportunity to go see them!
I'm a heavy rescue specialist and an Emergency Medical Technician... Hobbies include
computers and radio-controlled model helicopters. I'm an active radio amateur...I have
worked as an aircraft mechanic for United and as a radio broadcast engineer prior to
moving into television. I built the country's first Spanish/English educational FM radio
I have always been interested in mechanical and electrical things. I remember sticking
a paperclip in a light socket when I was about 3 years old. Somehow I knew it wouldn't
kill me beacuse I was on an insulated surface and there was no current path through my
body. I really got a great reaction from my mother! Right there I knew I was on to
something really neat. (Don't you kids try that at home. Remember, I am a trained
I also remember the absolute thrill of listening to my first crystal set which I built
in the Cub Scouts. It got five stations all at once! It seemed like the most powerful
kind of magic I could imagine. How can a small collection of parts with no batteries or
electical plug do that? One thing builds on another. I'm one of those unusual people who
knew exactly what I wanted to do when I was a kid. I got my ham radio license when I was
in junior high and passed my commercial radio license when I was in high school. I also
got interested in flying when I was a high school student and spent all my spare money
flying around on weekends.
If you are interested in electronics one of the best books you can get your hands on
is the Radio Amateur Handbook. Ham radio is a great hobby to get into. There is something
there for everyone. We are the only hobby that launches our own earth satellites!
My advice to anyone interested in this sort of work is to learn everything you can in
school. Most important of all is to learn how to research information on your own --
learn how to learn, in other words. No matter how hard you pay attention, your teacher
can only cram so much into your heads. When you get into the "real world" you'll find
that most often you won't know everything you need to know for whatever it is that you're
doing. Can you ramp yourself up and gather all the information you need to get the job
done? If you need to develop a new skill, do you know how to do that on your own? You
better if you want to stay employed.
The world is a very complex place and it's getting more complicated every day. When my
parents were working they could depend on keeping a job for most of their working lives
if they wanted to. Those days are long gone. Look no further than this project to see the
current situation. Many of us will be out of a job in a few weeks. The same thing is
probably going to happen to you several times in your life. Count on it. I know it's
probably hard to really put yourself in an adults place when you're still in school, but
the day will come when you don't just need money so you can buy some new CD's or go to
the movies with your friends. You need a job to survive. You'll have mortgage payments or
rent to deal with unless you like living in a cardboard box under a bridge. It can get
downright ugly and very scary.
So far I've been very fortunate. Not only have I had a long string of really
interesting jobs but I've had the luxury of pretty much picking and choosing what I want
to do. My secret, if there is one, is that I put all my energy into my interests. I'm a
little bit better than the next guy because I work harder at it that he does. It's that
simple. I live and breath this stuff. I have a better equipped electronics and machine
shop at home that they do at work. I am totally into what I'm doing. I'm always trying to
learn something new. I'm completely interested in what I'm doing and I give it 100
percent. My work is my hobby.
So what's the bottom line? If you're not sure what to do try a lot of different things.
When you find something that lights your fire, give it all you've got!