Mike Hunter never flew a spacecraft, but he was a part of a team that had a big impact on the development of making and maintaining the shuttles and made sure that the countdowns we are so familiar with went ahead. Sharing wisdom from working at the Kennedy Space Center, NASA’s primary launch centre, Mike tells Tutorful more about his career and what drew him to working in space exploration.
1.Tell us a little about your job, your title and your everyday activities.
For many years I worked for United Space Alliance at the Kennedy Space Centre as a Test Project Engineer and as a Test Engineering Manager. One of my main roles was integrating daily tests into the schedule for space shuttles. My team planned assessments of equipment and looked after all of the technical elements for the Launch Control Room and activities carried out there. I’m now retired but look back fondly on the projects I contributed to.
2.What educational background did you need to get your job? What subjects or qualifications did you need to study?
To be a Test Project Engineer, it is required that you have a 4 year engineering degree. There is a big emphasis on Math, Physics, Chemistry, and so an in depth understanding around all these topics is a necessity. As I progressed through my career and became a manager, I needed lots of people management skills too. These are skills that will be useful in any job: getting on with people and communicating in the right way.
3.What did you want to be when you were younger?
I’ve always been fascinated with how things work. From a young age I loved looking at the different parts of things and understanding how they moved or worked together. As soon as I was old enough, I loved working with machines and engines and how to fix them so some sort of engineer was always where I was heading.
4.What made you so passionate about space exploration engineering?
When the opportunity came up to work with the most complicated machines on Earth, I couldn’t resist. It was going to be a challenge but the idea of working on NASA projects, troubleshooting anomalies and concluding the repairs on world famous space shuttles meant that I’d have a very rewarding career.
5.When you were at school, what was your favourite subject and why?
My favorite subject was Physics. I loved learning about the science of how things work, and being able to explain their properties and interactions. From elements, to space, and beyond, Physics was always something I looked forward to.
6.Who inspires you? Any other figures in NASA, Space Exploration or Engineering?
No single person really. The immense effort to process a space shuttle from launch to landing requires such a huge team of people and 100% effort from everyone, that it’s hard to single out just one. Inspiration came from working with the whole team and achieving things a group.
7. What is your proudest achievement in your professional career?
Each and every launch of a Space Shuttle was a tremendous and very rewarding achievement. We put so much hard work in, and watching something you worked on every day launch into space is an incredible feeling.
8. What is the best thing about working at NASA/Kennedy Space Center?
Definitely the people. The folks at the Kennedy Center were all so dedicated to their jobs, and were happy to go to work every day that it made it a very pleasant place to work. Even when people were stressed, you’d see them smiling and having fun with each other, sharing what they love to do.
9. What is something you can tell us that no-one would expect about NASA/Kennedy Space Center?
No one would expect how many people it takes to run the space center. The list is endless. From janitors, cafeteria workers, and grounds keepers, to mathematicians and rocket scientists, there is something needed from everyone, and without the entire crew, the launches wouldn’t happen.
10. What do you do in your spare time? Hobbies other than Space and Science?
Since I retired, I’ve got more time to do my favourite activities like hunting, fishing and traveling the countryside. My passion for engineering hasn’t disappeared though, I still love to spend time “tinkering” in my workshop and will often have oil on my hands.
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