"I look up to people who are passionate about what they do and are courageous enough to act on what they know is right in order to make things better."

Editor's Note: Jim retired from NASA in 2016.

Where are you from?

I was born in Fresno, Calif., but I spent most of my life in a suburb of Philadelphia, near Valley Forge, where George Washington spent the winter of 1777.

Describe the first time you made a personal connection with outer space.

My father worked in the aerospace industry from the 1950s until he retired in 1989, so space has always been a part of my life. I remember a "Family Day" (my father was working for Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) in Greenbelt, Md.) in the 1960's where I stood in line to get a chance at sitting inside a Mercury capsule. I did sit in it, and I remember marveling at how small the capsule was—especially compared to my family's Oldsmobile!

Listen to what intelligent people tell you, learn from your mistakes and those of others, and draw analogies from what you've learned and apply them to what you are doing in the moment. Above all, enjoy it!
- Jim Adams

How did you end up working in the space program?

In college I had been playing with microchips to create microprocessors, and I recognized that all the mechanical clunky cash registers of the day would eventually go electronic. Fortunately for me, the companies working on electronic redesign of cash registers were looking for electronic engineering majors and NOT physics majors. I ended up working for the Department of Defense on a contract (my second choice) at General Electric in Philadelphia. Later, my duties expanded to include NASA contract work as well.

Who inspired you?

Everybody inspires me! I look up to people who are passionate about what they do and are courageous enough to act on what they know is right in order to make things better. Specifically in regard to space exploration, I have always admired Carl Sagan and Sally Ride. Dr. Sagan expanded people's minds and Dr. Ride opened new frontiers for those with disadvantages.

Tell us about a favorite moment so far in your career.

Anytime I get to be part of a launch team. To see the completion of everyone's labors and sacrifices take off on the mission is always a special moment for me.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to take the same career path as you?

Listen to what intelligent people tell you, learn from your mistakes and those of others, and draw analogies from what you've learned and apply them to what you are doing in the moment. Above all, enjoy it!

What do you do for fun?

Work. No, seriously my son and I enjoy swimming, kayaking, video games, and reading. My wife and I enjoy gardening and cooking at home.

If you were talking to a student interested in science and math or engineering, what advice would you give them?

Go for it! Science and engineering are among the most rewarding careers one can pursue. I always tell high school students to take as much algebra as possible and to focus on getting those skills down well before moving on to higher level math. A year delay in taking AP Calculus won't hurt you if you are creating a solid foundation in algebraic math skills.