Hubble Career Profiles: Jackie Townsend


There was a scene at the very end, where there's two arm wrestlers struggling with everything they have. The camera focuses in on his face, and as he was sitting there, in slow motion struggling with everything he had, I had the epiphany that I had never worked that hard, even for a moment. And I decided right then and there that I was going to go back to college, I was going to pick the hardest major that I had enjoyed, and I was going to give it everything I had.

A traditional definition of what an instrument manager does is to make sure that the instrument does what it says it's going to do. So we meet our technical requirements. That it's delivered on schedule and within costs. And I think the most powerful tool in an engineer's toolbox is the ability to break really complex problems down into smaller and smaller pieces until it's down to a piece that one person can manage in a day or in an hour.  One of the pieces that it's divided down into is the Wide Field Camera 3.  I divide that down into small pieces. I need an electrical engineer to make sure that all the circuitry works and that all the power goes to the right places.  I need a mechanical engineer who is going to build the structure that holds all of this stuff. I need an optics engineer. We need detectors.

And my job is really to break that down. You know, what does it mean to build a thousand pounds of hardware that's going to do this great science?

Astronaut: Hey, Megan, let's stop here and get down about six or eight inches--Jackie: I got the kinds of jobs you can get without a college education and without and motivation and being a young kid.  I needed to work on something that mattered to me. That I needed to feel a personal connection with making an investment in the future, in humanity's future, my future.  I found out that when it matters to me and when I feel like I'm being a part of something bigger than myself, and I'm willing to try as hard as I can, nothing can stand in my way.  No matter what it is that you're facing in your life, the piece that is standing between you and your dream is you.  And that anybody can make a choice in their life to go after what matters to them to get the skills that they need to go after what matters to them. And they can get there because if I'm here, believe me, you can get to where you want to go.