Craig Tooley discussed the engineering process of building four spacecraft simultaneously at the Aerospace@Annapolis event on Feb. 1, 2013. Image Credit: NASA/T. Cline

Where are you from?

I was born in Dallas and grew up in Texas, Colorado, and Indiana. I currently live in historic Greenbelt, Md., which is only a few miles from where I work at Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC).

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

I remember watching a Gemini launch on television when I was, I think, 5 years old. However, there was a landing a few years later when I was 8 years old that was even more memorable and influential -- the night of the first Moon landing. That and my viewing of the newly released movie "2001: A Space Odyssey" cemented my fascination with the seemingly limitless possibilities of human space flight.

I always knew working in the space program was what I wanted to do as a career.
- Craig Tooley

How did you end up working in the space program?

I always knew working in the space program was what I wanted to do as a career. Luckily, the year of my graduation from college (1983) coincided with a major NASA hiring initiative. I sent my resume to most NASA centers, and GSFC hired me.

Who inspired you?

My biggest inspiration was my father, who was an engineer with Texas Instruments and then later the dean of the engineering school at the University of Evansville in Evansville, Ind. (where I also attended). Other inspiration came from the imaginative visions painted by the science fiction authors Arthur C. Clarke, Robert A. Heinlein and Frank Herbert -- to name a few.

What is a NASA Project Manager?

Simply put, a NASA Project Manager is the person entrusted to lead and manage the execution of a spaceflight project for NASA. For missions (such as the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter [LRO]) done in-house at NASA, project managing entails leading and inspiring an incredibly talented cadre of NASA people, while trying to balance the often competing goals of perfect technical performance with cost and schedule constraints.

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

A favorite moment was when the LRO spacecraft separated from the Atlas V rocket and deployed its solar arrays to begin the trip to the moon under her own power. I had the enormous privilege of being incredibly proud of the over 300 people who were a part of this success!

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

Cultivate an inquisitive mind that never stops being a student. Each project or assignment will bring a wealth of opportunities to learn and master new science and technology. (Particularly important to being a NASA project manager is to keep learning about technology so that you are properly technically literate.) And you must develop perseverance. Having it and inspiring it in others is the single most important key to achieving success in any challenging endeavor.

What do you do for fun?

Well, working at NASA is fun, and some days I am amazed they pay me to do it! But when not at work I read, run, camp, bike, restore vintage Volkswagen automobiles, and raise my two beautiful daughters.


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