Space Exploration Programme Manager at the UK Space Agency
Where do you work and what is your job?
I work at the UK Space Agency as Space Exploration Programme Manager.
What does your job involve?
Developing the UK Space Agency’s strategy for Space Exploration. Managing the UK instrument contributions to exploration missions mainly ExoMars. Making sure the funding is in place for the teams and that they deliver to time, budget and schedule. UK delegate to the ESA Programme Board for Human Spaceflight and Exploration. Developing the UK industrial strategy and looking after UK industries interests. Run the exploration science exploitation and outreach programmes.
What interested you in working in the space sector?
I fell into space by accident and I am so glad I did. I did an archaeological science degree, did some research and then moved to the Research Councils into a managerial role. I turned up at work one morning to find I was no longer looking after civil engineering research and had been moved into Earth Observation. That was in 1991 and they haven’t been able to move me out of the Space area since.
What do you do in a typical day?
I don’t have a typical day. It can be as wide ranging as working with a contractor to develop outreach materials, providing ministers with briefs on issues, working with a university on a technical issue, organising a conference. The only thing that is typical is that when leaving work I won’t have done what I had planned to.
Are there any other interesting aspects to your work?
Well, I have gone to some interesting places such as Svalbard (but I didn’t see a polar bear). I have been to one launch but that was Cluster 1 which exploded and I’ve not been allowed to one since. I do like the mix of science. I do meet astronauts. But the best bit is doing schools talks which I don’t manage to do often enough.
What is it about your job that fascinates or inspires you?
Why I liked managing research is that you always going into new areas. I started in building research and now I do Mars. The challenge of understanding new things is great. There are a lot of very talented scientists and engineers and I try and sort out the finance and politics to allow them to do incredible space missions.
Why is what you do important?
Answering the question, Is there life elsewhere in the universe? is important so that we can grasp where humanity fits in the big picture. The science and engineering required to do this is challenging and develops highly skilled people and new technology for the benefit of the economy. I play a role in achieving this.
What advice would you give to someone considering a career in space?
Doing science and engineering is the normal way of entering space as a career but there are lots of things you can do with other qualifications. So if you are interested just be persistent.