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SIRTF Profiles: Mark Legassie

SIRTF System Engineering

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My interest in astronomy began around the age of 10. I was born in Maine and grew up in the small rural town of Ashland in the northern part of the state, where the skies are very dark. Back in the early seventies, my cousin Pat and I would lay in the backyard, look at the stars and ponder the questions:

"How big is the universe?"
"Does it have an end, or does it go on forever?"
"If the universe ends, what could be on the other side?"

These questions mind-boggled me as a kid, but it wasn't until after the July 1994 Shoemaker-Levy comet collision into Jupiter that I finally decided to buy my first telescope.

In the meantime, I studied Physics Engineering at the University of Maine and received my B.S. in 1986. I then moved to Boston and worked in several engineering positions and eventually became the Test Director for a software development project for the Air Force (developing an automated weather forecasting system).

Even though my engineering career was going great, I was ready for a change. Ever since I was young I wanted to work for NASA (being an avid amateur astronomer). I also had a burning desire to move out west.

Therefore, in 1999 I moved to California after accepting a System Engineering position for a project being managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. This was the best move I ever made. I'm now working for the Space Infrared Telescope Facility (SIRTF), which is a state-of-the-art telescope scheduled for launch in 2002. The sensitive infrared cameras on this telescope will allow us to peer through the dusty universe and observe objects too dim to be seen by the Hubble Space Telescope.

My position as the lead System Integration and Test Engineer is very rewarding and challenging. My responsibilities include ensuring that our Science Operations System (SOS) is properly integrated and functioning properly. Our test team conducts intensive testing to ensure all requirements have been satisfied. This system is just one component of the entire Space Telescope and will help astronomers plan their observations as well as provide the capabilities to process and store raw image data.

I am currently studying Astronomy & Astrophysics at UCLA and plan to continue my graduate studies while working on this exciting SIRTF project!

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