Instrument Manager Jacqueline Townsend
Jacqueline Townsend

Jacqueline Townsend is the instrument manager for the Wide Field Camera 3 instrument at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. Image Credit: NASA

Note: Some quotes in this story have been changed for readability.

Describe your role with the Mission to Hubble.

I am the instrument manager for the Wide Field Camera 3. It's my job to ensure that our team builds an instrument that does what we promised. The camera will provide spectacular pictures until the end of the telescope's life. It's also my job to make sure the camera is ready on time and within cost.

The team has people working all over the country and the world. Each person works on their own specific part of the instrument. It's important to make sure all the pieces fit together like a puzzle. I spend most of my time making sure the entire team is working well together.

What should people know about Hubble?

I am grateful to work on a program that has touched the lives of people all over the world. I think this is because it demonstrates the absolute best that NASA has to offer. Hubble uses the great strengths of the human spaceflight program to provide spectacular science.

How did you become interested in science? How did that interest grow into a career?

I always loved the space program. But during high school I didn't think I was good enough in math or science to make it at NASA. I went to college for one year as a psychology major. Then I took a break from college and worked as a farmhand, as a secretary and in retail.

In that time, I learned three important things about myself. First, I found that I must be challenged by my work. Second, I decided I needed to work on something that mattered to me, where I could contribute to the future. And finally, I realized that I had never tried as hard as I could at anything in my life. Fear of failure always prevented me from trying my hardest.

With those three things in mind, I decided to go back to college. I tried physics, the most difficult program that interested me. I tried it even at the risk of total failure. After several years I graduated with honors from the University of Maryland. In the meantime, I had found my way to NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. I worked there part-time and went to school part-time. I was delighted to find that I had the right skills to succeed at NASA.

In working for NASA and the space program, I believe I am contributing to our future in a real way.

What advice would you give to students who are thinking about a career in science?

Find your passion and give it everything you have. Sometimes you'll be wrong. Sometimes you'll make mistakes. And often you'll have to ask for help. But if it matters to you, and you're willing to give it your all, don't let anyone stand in your way.

Dan Stillman, Institute for Global Environmental Strategies