A r t  P o l a n d
Ex-Project Scientist for the SOlar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO)
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

My Journey

I grew up living a few blocks from the ocean in Asbury Park, New Jersey. I'll have to admit that I found the process of growing up (the first 18 years) to be very slow and boring. I did OK in school, spent my summers at the beach, going to camp, and working in my father's jewelry store. We had a house, but it was smaller than most apartments. My most memorable experience in school was my freshman year in High School when the Russians launched Sputnik.

I'll never forget the first night that Sputnik was launched. My parents and I woke up very early in the morning to see it go over. We were standing outside in the cold night air looking in the sky for a moving "star". I had never really paid attention to all those stars up there before this and they seemed fascinating to me - what were they? We did see Sputnik and most of the other students and I talked about it the next day at school, but I was really curious about those stars. I asked my science teacher about them, and he loaned me his college textbook on Astronomy. I read it from cover to cover and have been hooked on Astronomy ever since. My parents were very supportive of my interest and even bought me a small telescope.

The rest of my High School career was marked very much by that event. I did very well in science and mathematics, but barely survived in English, history, etc. Even through those years in High School my main goal was to get out so I could get on with life. I wanted to learn faster and be an Astronomer. I wanted to understand the Universe and discover new things.

There was something I was learning in High School that became very valuable to me later, and I didn't even know I was learning it. The school had a wide cross-section of students. Some were very poor, some very rich. They were from many different cultures and nationalities - some of my friends parents didn't even speak English. This taught me to get along with many different types of people. This became very valuable in my job as project scientist on an international mission.

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