Hunter Waite
Hunter Waite discusses the Cassini mission to Saturn at a press conference in 2017. Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

Education

University of Alabama
B.S. Physics
University of Michigan
M.S. Atmospheric Science
University of Michigan
Ph.D. Atmospheric Science

Where are you from?

I grew up in Huntsville, Alabama, and I received my Ph.D. from the University of Michigan. Now I live and work in San Antonio, Texas.

What first sparked your interest in space and science?

Back in the 1960s, my dad worked on Werhner Von Braun's Advanced Planning Staff. One Saturday my dad had to go into the office to work on a presentation from Dr. Von Braun. My brother and I went with him. My dad took the materials into Von Braun's office and when he did he told us we could sit in his chair for a minute. What inspiration! My dad immediately gave my brother and me copies of Dr. Von Braun's popular books and the rest is history.

Hunter Waite
Hunter Waite and a model of Enceladus, an ocean moon that orbits Saturn.

How did you end up working in the space program?

Inspiration from my dad, especially going to all the great launches – the first Moon launch, the Skylab Launch from the VIP vehicle assembly building viewing stand, and the first shuttle launch.

Who inspired you?

My dad.

What does your job entail?

I build mass spectrometers for space applications, operate them in flight, and analyze and report the data.

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

The Cassini launch was very special – talking with the press at the VIP site.

What are you looking forward to in your career?

Putting MASPEX on the Europa Clipper spacecraft and returning with MASPEX to Enceladus. [MASPEX will study gases in Europa’s faint atmosphere for clues about the moon’s surface, its suspected subsurface ocean, and how the ocean and surface exchange material.]

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

Get lots of good chemistry, physics, and math background in college.

What do you do for fun?

I hike and bike.