Jet Propulsion Laboratory scientists Dr. Stanley G. Love and Dr. John D. Olivas have been selected by NASA for the 1998 Astronaut Candidate Program, and will report to NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, TX, in mid-August to begin one year of training and evaluation.
The two will train to become mission specialists, astronauts who in charge of operating experiments, deploying satellites and handling many other aspects of Space Shuttle missions.
Both scientists said they have been fascinated with space since childhood. And as is often the case, both had previously applied for the astronaut program. Only 25 people were selected this year, out of more than 2,600 applicants.
Since joining JPL a year ago, Love has been a staff engineer working with computer models of space optical instruments, such as the Tropospheric Emission Spectrometer, which will determine the chemical composition of Earth's atmosphere with unprecedented accuracy.
Love has been part of a team working to develop new methods for estimating the condition of the optics in space telescopes. He has applied these techniques to the Hubble Space Telescope, where they can be used to sharpen up existing images. Hubble also provides a useful test case for future missions, such as the Next Generation Space Telescope, which will have built-in optical adjustment capabilities. Love also worked on reengineering JPL engineering processes.
Love said his fascination with space started with science- fiction books.
"I started reading sci-fi books at 6, and I always loved space and astronomy," he said.
However, it was only when a fellow graduate of his college went on to become an astronaut that he realized he too could realize his dream to visit space.
"I thought, if he could do it, it is possible. So I started to apply while I was working on my Ph.D., and updated my application every year," he said.
His tenacity eventually paid off.
"I didn't get hired that time, didn't get hired the second time, then I finally got hired this time. I'm very honored, and delighted," he said.
Before joining JPL, Love held a post-doctorate appointment in the California Institute of Technology's Geological and Planetary Sciences Division. In his two years at Caltech, Love researched how metal and minerals behave under hard pressures and violent impacts using light gas gun and computer simulations, as well as studying simulated asteroid collisions using a supercomputer.
Soon after earning a doctorate in astronomy from the University of Washington in 1993, Love held a one-year post- doctorate research position at the Hawaii Institute of Geophysics and Planetology, University of Hawaii, Honolulu. There, Love developed analytical models for collisional heating, melting and breakup of asteroids, as well as studying the formation and composition of meteorites, and the likelihood and predicted properties of meteorites from the planet Mercury.
After graduating in 1983 from Winston Churchill High School in Eugene, OR, Love earned a bachelor's degree in physics from Harvey Mudd College in 1987 and a master's degree in astronomy from the University of Washington in 1989 before receiving his doctorate.
Born in San Diego on June 8, 1965, Love lives in Pasadena with his wife, Jancy C. McPhee, a molecular biologist at Caltech. They have a son, Gavin, who will turn 2 this month.
Olivas is a program element manager in JPL's Advanced Interconnect and Manufacturing Assurance Section. Joining the Laboratory in 1996, he has done extensive research for the Deep Space 2, Stardust and Champollion missions, as well as the X-33, a prototype reusable launch vehicle.
As a mechanical and material engineer, his research focuses on studying how different materials -- from plastic to metal to ceramic -- behave once exposed to light, radiation, increased temperature and pressure. The goal is to understand what the specific material does at the atomic level.
Born May 25, 1966 in North Hollywood, Olivas grew up in El Paso, TX, where his parents still live.
Olivas said it was a summer trip to the Johnson Space Center and Kennedy Space Center with his family that inflamed his fascination with space. He was only 7 years old, but realized right away that that was his calling, and to become an astronaut have been a life-long dream ever since.
"For me it was just standing next to this Saturn V launch vehicle that was at JSC. I remember being very impressed by its size," he said. "That trip was really an inspiration, especially listening to those little voice-boxes in JSC's museum playing recording of the landing of the Apollo mission on the Moon and the voice of Neil Armstrong."
Olivas said that he also likes the Earth-based portion of astronauts' job description: interacting with the public and helping others to realize their potential, especially children, who need to understand why is important to study science.
"I think that a big part of science can be very complex and intricate, very beautiful scientifically and mathematically," he said. "But it's only when you can take that science and turn it into something that people can really understand and relate to that we are really doing our jobs as scientists and engineers."
He credited the JPL environment and his family's support for his successful bid to join the astronaut program.
"I've been very fortunate in my career: I had a lot of good opportunities to work with dynamite people and I think that really helped me progress in my career," he said. "If you got the right people around you to support you, you can do pretty much everything. And I have a very supportive family."
A graduate of Burges High School, El Paso, TX, Olivas earned a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Texas, El Paso, in 1989, a master's degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Houston in 1993, and a doctorate in mechanical engineering and materials, at Rice University, TX, in 1996.
Olivas and his wife, Marie, live in Redondo Beach. They have a 3-year-old daughter, Isabella, and a 20-month-old son, James.
The training in Texas will last at least a year. In addition to classes on shuttle systems, candidates will study basic science and technology, from mathematics to geology to guidance and navigation. Candidates also receive training in parachute jumping, land and sea survival training, scuba diving and space suits.
Six JPL employees were previously selected for the Astronaut Candidate Program or have served as payload specialists. They include Jay Apt, G. David Low, Andy Thomas and Stephanie Wilson; Dr. Eugene Trinh and Dr. Taylor Wang flew their own experiments on the Space Shuttle as payload specialists.
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