SIRTF Profiles: Bill Green
SIRTF Science Center Manager
My name is Bill Green, and I serve as Manager of the SIRTF Science Center. My job involves leading the team of people who are responsible for the design, development and operation of computer programs, computer systems, and networks, that support all the activities at the Science Center. The Science Center is led by the Director, a scientist named Tom Soifer, and a Deputy Director, George Helou. The Directors establish the overall requirements for our systems, and select the scientists who will get time on the Observatory. It's my job to make sure that all the capabilities required to support their requirements are in place and well tested before launch and operations. I am also responsible for deciding how many different operations teams we need, and how many different people with different skills are required to do all the things the scientists want to do with the Observatory and the instruments to further their scientific research. I have been here five years and really enjoy the opportunity of learning about all the exciting scientific discoveries that SIRTF will produce, and working with all the research scientists here. It has been a real challenge to build the team that is capable of developing and operating this complex system. We have produced and tested over a million lines of code and now have an operational data system running that code in over 90 different processors, all networked together. We have run lots of tests with simulators and the flight hardware, and we are now ready to start supporting science operations following the launch in April.
As a kid, I was always interested in science, especially Chemistry. I enrolled as a Chemistry Major at UCLA and guess what — I nearly flunked out of college because I wasn't able to deal with college level Chemistry courses. At UCLA you had to take a lot of Physics courses if you were a Chemistry major, and I was getting good grades in Physics and enjoyed it a lot, so I switched majors and graduated with a degree in Nuclear Physics. When I graduated, there were not a lot of job openings for science majors, so I took a job offer from Douglas Aircraft company. They were short of computer programmers and put new hires into an 8-week course to learn how to program computers in assembly language. From that point on, computers were part of my life, and I used computers to model how light travels in the atmosphere, and how remote sensing camera systems worked. I also went back and got a Masters in Engineering from UCLA in Nuclear Engineering. After working in industry for a while, I got a chance to come to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. I had watched the Ranger missions transmitting live images on TV as they crashed into the moon, and I thought that it was amazing to see pictures coming back from the moon. At JPL, I became responsible for leading teams of people who worked on developing software to process the pictures from spacecraft that went to Mars, Mercury, Venus, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. I also got to help produce the pictures sent back by the Viking Mars Landers during the Bicentennial year, and later on the pictures sent back from the Mars Pathfinder mission. Today, all kinds of people are processing pictures from digital cameras and scanners on their home computers, but when I started work at JPL only a few of us were doing digital image processing with computers. It's fun for me to see how far that technology has gone, and to now hear all my friends discussing pixels and image processing programs at social events. It's also great to be able to distribute the results of these missions almost immediately on the internet now. I feel very lucky to have been able to work on all these amazing missions, with some incredible scientists and the engineers who produce the systems required to support all the science activities on all these missions. Five years ago, I transferred from JPL to Caltech, and I am now enjoying working on this very exciting mission. After working on missions within our solar system for many years, I now had the opportunity to work on a mission that will extend our knowledge of the universe that lies beyond our solar system.
Outside of work, I am involved in all kinds of activities with my family, including my wife, children, children's spouses, and five grandkids. I make sure I send them the latest news on all the activities here via email, and they are well equipped with mousepads and posters for their walls at home. In addition, I love following UCLA athletics, I do some writing (I've had three books published), enjoy traveling, enjoy music of all kinds and opera, and am involved in a lot of community work.
NOTE: Bill Green retired in March 2003.