I have never wanted to do anything else but study space. I grew up in anthracite country in eastern Pennsylvania, where there were no professional scientists or nearby colleges where one could be exposed to enrichment programs in science. But living there worked for me because at night the skies were dark, and that is what I really needed most. While in elementary and middle school I checked out textbooks from the library and taught myself astronomy, physics, and optics. With the help of my grandfather, a very smart man who left school in eighth grade to work in the mines to support his family, I built telescopes to observe the night sky. And I spent hours and hours doing so, learning the positions of all the bright stars, and the locations of major galaxies and nebulae. I observed all the planets except for Pluto (which was a planet back in those days).
I attended the University of Pennsylvania to study astronomy and geology, and then Brown University where I received my master’s and Ph.D. in planetary geophysics. After completing my education, I went to the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center and got involved in robotic missions to Mars and the Moon. Because I wanted to work with students I moved on to faculty positions at Johns Hopkins University and then MIT. I have had the extraordinary opportunity to work on many space missions with great colleagues and students at universities, NASA centers, and industry. I work hard, but I explore the solar system for a living and what could be better than that? Imagine what it would be like if your job could be your hobby? That’s the life I lead.