NASA Engineer (with Mike Cooney)

Maybe if we can answer the question of what happened to Mars, it will better help us understand Earth because in the grand scheme of life we have a data point of one and that’s earth. In any scientific experiment a data point of one is really really bad.

What did you want to be when you were a kid?  I would be willing to stake my life on the fact that at least 90% of kids at some point in their childhood would all say the same thing, and it’s not Fire Truck Driver.  I am of course referring to being an astronaut.  Is there anything more great than space?  Anything more captivating and awe inspiring?  Today’s guest himself is an aspiring astronaut, but for now he has to settle with just being a particle physics trained electrical engineer with a PhD working on some of the most complex problems that mankind ever has at Langley Research Center for NASA.  If Astronauts are going to get to space andsurvive there, they have to rely on a lot of smart people like Michael.  Time to learn about the people that have helped inspired the imaginations of every child ever.

The agency actually put out a call for astronauts earlier this year, and it was a record number of applicants...they had 16,000 applicants for 8 to 14 slots.
One of the things that you have to learn as a creator of anything...if you spend enough time and wait long enough you can always make something better. But at some point you just have to say it’s good enough, I have to put a stake in the ground and move on.

Interview Contents

2:25 - What is it like being a NASA ‘celebrity’?
3:15 - What does it take to become an astronaut?
5:10 - What Michael works on.
6:45 - The different NASA centers.
9:15 - Working with smart and dedicated people.
11:15 - Free work time.
13:45 - The SpaceX influence and the culture at NASA.
15:45 - Roadmaps for future technologies.
18:20 - Working on bigger goals.
20:30 - Why does it seem SpaceX can do some big things that NASA can’t?
23:00 - Things that NASA does that private companies will not.
24:30 - Big things that NASA does for humanity that people don’t think about.
27:30 - Major projects since the moon landing.
28:50 - Don’t let perfect be the enemy of the good.
34:15 - The projects that Mike is working on right now.
36:40 - The number of projects that are being juggled just to get people to Mars.
38:25 - Why Mars?
41:40 - How good does something need to be to feel it’s ready to go into space?
44:30 - Being both an experimental and theoretical scientist.
48:20 - Negatives to working for NASA.
53:30 - Training opportunities.
55:00 - Pay.
58:00 - Advice for people looking to work at NASA.
59:30 - How are we one day going to traverse the galaxies?
1:02:30 - How long before we have a permanent base on Mars or the moon?
1:06:00 - Why do we have more matter than antimatter?
1:08:40 - Accidental discoveries.
1:11:45 - Do people always use the standard model of physics as a benchmark?
1:14:00 - AI.
1:21:20 - Mike’s favorite thing in science right now.

Links

NASA

USAjobs.gov

NASA Internships and Fellowships

CERN

Blake Fletcher

San Francisco, CA

Livin it up!