Nagin Cox, Engineer, NASA’s Galileo Mission to Jupiter

Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Kansas City.

What was your favorite subject in school?

Did you have a favorite teacher? 
I cannot say that I had one favorite teacher.

What do you do?
I work on Mission Control for Galileo, a robotic spacecraft. Galileo has made the journey from Earth to Jupiter to learn as much as possible about the planet and its moons. Sending robotic spacecraft out to explore for us is like sending an extension of ourselves. Robots are our eyes and ears. In Mission Control, I work with a team of engineers to help take care of Galileo. We communicate with the spacecraft using a lot of computers to give Galileo instructions. This is how we keep the spacecraft on course. We get information back, too. In a way, we talk back and forth with Galileo.

When I was a student…
It started with Star Trek. I had these two friends who introduced me to the show. That broadened my interest in science fiction. Then, I started reading science fiction. I started asking myself what it was all about. I realized there was some real science in science fiction. I thought I might want to write science fiction, but then I thought, why stay in fiction?

When I got older…

I decided I wanted to work in the field of space science. So, I went to the library and looked up the astronauts. I found out that they typically had science, math and military backgrounds. Then, one day, I remember, I was walking through the back parking lot of my high school and there was an Air Force recruiting trailer. As I approached it I remembered the military backgrounds of the astronaut profiles. I walked in and one of the guys approached me. He asked me if I wanted to go to college. I did, I said, but I didn’t have any money. He asked how my grades were and I said ‘straight A’s.’ He said, ‘have a seat.’ After that I received a scholarship to Cornell University and joined the Air Force! I knew what I wanted to do with my life and I got the degrees that I needed. Even though I would not have chosen math and science for fun, I knew I needed it. In a lot of ways, I worked and suffered through engineering courses in college. I also got a psychology degree so I could keep my options open.

Now, I have a really cool job…
JPL is very mission oriented and it is here that I became more interested in the robotic program. So far, with the information back from Galileo we have discovered a lot about Jupiter. It is a lot more like Earth than we thought. Jupiter has strong winds, lightning and tornadoes. Over the next few years we’ll just keep getting more information back and learn even more about Jupiter and her moons!

What are your hobbies?
Travel, public speaking, hiking