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Charles "Karl" Hibbitts
Picture of Charles
Charles "Karl" Hibbitts
Planetary Scientist, Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory
Karl in training for a suborbital space flight.

Where are you from?
My hometown is Nashville, Tenn.

Describe the first time you made a personal connection with outer space.
I remember it was one of the Apollo launches. We were living in Florida at the time and my family and I took a day trip to see the launch. I still remember the huge fireball, thunder and light as the Saturn V launched from the pad.

"Don't worry about your exact path,
but keep in mind where you want to
end up."
Karl Hibbitts

How did you end up working in the space program?
I always wanted to combine my interests in geology and space. So, after earning a degree in physics and geology and then serving in the military, I went back to graduate school to get a doctorate in planetary geology.

Who inspired you?
Early on, when I was a teenager and even younger, it was the stories of Werner von Braun.

What is a Planetary Scientist?
A planetary scientist is often a Jack of all trades, with a specialization in one area. In my case, I have a diverse background in physics and geology that helps me to understand the various processes that shape our solar system. I have focused on using infrared spectroscopy to understand the composition and geology of solid bodies in our solar system.

Tell us about a favorite moment so far in your career.
Honestly, it's every time I get funding to do some new and interesting work. But recently, I've been working with collaborators to understand the water on the Moon. This whole process, including the laboratory research and analyses of spacecraft data, has been really interesting and it is potentially relevant to our nation's future manned exploration to visit nearby asteroids.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to take the same career path as you?
Don't worry about your exact path, but keep in mind where you want to end up. When you come to a point where you don't know how to go forward, think about trying a different approach, but still keep the same goal in mind.

What do you do for fun?
I have twin boys, aged six -- they provide a whole lot of entertainment.

If you were talking to a student interested in science and math or engineering, what advice would you give them?
Do well in school and take your studies seriously, but also pursue an aspect of research that you enjoy the most. After all, you might be doing this for the rest of your life.

Read More

  • Suborbital Scientists: Here's a website/blog of some interesting commercial suborbital spaceflight initiatives I am involved in. Suborbital flight potentially provides relatively inexpensive access to space for student researchers as well as professionals. Plus, as a new initiative, the enthusiasm is high and participation at any level is fun.

Last Updated: 17 July 2013

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Last Updated: 17 Jul 2013