People

Text Size

Michael Hesse Is Passionate About Science, Sailing, and Space
10.19.11
 
Conversations with Goddard banner

From researching space to predicting space weather, space physicist Michael Hesse loves solving big, scientific puzzles.


Name: Michael Hesse
Title: Chief, Space Weather Laboratory
Formal Job Classification:Supervisory Astrophysicist
Organization He Works For: Code 674, Space Weather Laboratory, Heliophysics Science Division, Science Directorate

What is most interesting about your role here at Goddard?


I lead an organization that does everything from measuring space properties to forecasting space weather. Space weather affects many things including GPS satellite communications, which indirectly impact cell phones and the power grid. My lab has a great breadth of activities that I enjoy.

What is a typical day on the job like for you?

My organization has four labs. In three of them, we build instruments to measure properties of space. In the fourth, we run models used to forecast space weather. I usually touch base with my people about project status, ask for the daily space weather report, and determine any actions we may have to take. Each day is different; there is no routine day.

Photo of Michael Hesse› View larger image
Photo of Michael Hesse. Credit: NASA

What is a typical day on the job like for you?

My organization has four labs. In three of them, we build instruments to measure properties of space. In the fourth, we run models used to forecast space weather. I usually touch base with my people about project status, ask for the daily space weather report, and determine any actions we may have to take. Each day is different; there is no routine day.

Describe how you do your job – where you do it? Do you work in a cubicle, an office, a lab, on a glacier, or all of the above?

I usually work in an office at Goddard. Collaborations sometimes require me to travel within the U.S. or to foreign countries including Belgium, Russia, or Japan. I am fluent in German and speak broken French and Danish. My wife, also a space physicist, is from Denmark.

Do you use any cool tools, or instruments or specialized pieces of equipment to do your job?

We are one of the leading institutions that develops electric field instrumentation to measure electric fields in space. These help us understand how space weather works. We run the most advanced space weather models in the world. We determine space weather throughout the solar system for NASA and other customers.

How important is teamwork or collaboration with others to your being able to do your job?

My lab has about 60 people. Teamwork is critically important to accomplishing what we are doing. Teamwork is necessary within our own organization, throughout Goddard and NASA, and even extending outside of NASA with other laboratories and universities.

What was your best day or the best thing that ever happened to you at Goddard?

There are a number of times when I have discovered something scientifically and I always felt good when that happened. I was also thrilled, for example, when someone in my lab was awarded a Cubesat mission, which will study the relationship between gamma ray bursts and lightning. The Cubesat mission satellites are very small and this one is being built in one of our labs and should be launched next year. The relationship between gamma ray bursts and lightning is a big, scientific puzzle. Particles in lightning have to be accelerated to very high energy levels because they emit gamma rays under certain conditions. We’re trying to find out the nature of those conditions. This is an exciting scientific problem.

What makes Goddard a great place to work?


Goddard is a powerhouse. The amount of talent and knowledge in science and engineering is phenomenal and is an enormous resource to have available. People are eager to collaborate, which makes so many things possible that I personally could never have done anywhere else.

Is there something surprising about you, your hobbies, interests, activities outside of work that people do not generally know (like you run ultra marathons or work on a NASCAR pit crew on weekends)?


Michael Hesse enjoying sailing› View larger image
Michael enjoying a day of sailing. Credit: M. Hesse
I am a passionate sailor. Although I don’t have time to compete, I always sail as fast as possible! I have a 28 foot trimaran, which means that it has three hulls. It is a very fast boat. I live on the water and our boat is docked in front of our house.

Do you have a favorite book, magazine, movie, or TV show?


I am currently reading a fascinating book about Eisenhower, Bradley, and Patton during World War II. The name of the book is “Brothers, Rivals, Victors: Eisenhower, Patton, Bradley and the Partnership that Drove the Allied Conquest in Europe” by Jonathan Jordan. I mostly read historical nonfiction or spy novels. Reading helps me relax in the evening after an exciting day at work.



Related Link:

› More Conversations With Goddard
 
 
Elizabeth M. Jarrell
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.