Professor of Space Science at the Open University
What does your job involve?
Designing & building scientific instruments to go to interesting places such as Mars, Halley’s Comet and Titan, Saturn’s largest Moon and analysing the data from those instruments.
What interested you in working in the space sector?
I grew up at the start of the “Space Age”. I stood a few feet from Yuri Gagarin when he came to London – that inspired me. And then all those missions through the 1960s leading up to the landing on the Moon. As far as I was concerned, there was nothing else for me to do!!
What do you do in a typical day?
There is no typical day! I’m rarely in the lab these days – but I travel a lot to the UK and the European Space Agencies to help plan the future space programme – and at the moment, I’m spending a month in China working with Chinese scientists and hoping to get involved in their space programme.
Are there any other interesting aspects to your work?
Working with scientists & engineers from all over the world, and now with Chinese colleagues, is fascinating but something most of us are very used to now. And because of that, I do get to visit quite a few interesting countries that I wouldn’t have a chance to visit otherwise.
What is it about your job that fascinates or inspires you?
The job is ultimately about exploration – we plan to explore some of the most exotic places in our Solar System; the methane seas of Titan, the icy surface of a comet or the cold desert surface of Mars!
Why is what you do important?
Exploration and “blue skies research” is one of those activities that defines us as human beings – with enquiring minds that want to know about our Universe, where it came from, where it’s going and whether we are alone.
What advice would you give to someone considering a career in space?
Go for it – you will need to be very determined. But if you are, there is almost certainly a place for you.