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Meet: John Marmie

Deputy Project Manager
LCROSS Mission
NASA, Ames Research Center

About LCROSS and What I Do:
NASA has a goal of returning to the moon, mars and beyond.  The LCROSS mission is one of the first steps to achieving that goal.  By returning to the moon, LCROSS will provide answers that will guide decisions as we take one small step towards lunar colonization.  As the LCROSS Deputy Project Manager, I assist in ensuring that the day to day project tasks needed to get the job done are successfully coordinated and implemented.

My career journey
After nearly two decades at NASA, I’ve been blessed to have worked on projects I could never have imagined when growing up in the rural Appalachian foothills of the Ohio Valley.  Higher education opened the doors of opportunity that guided my path.  

Each person’s motivation is fueled in different ways.  Each person also needs a “grounding point”…or something that keeps your view of the world in perspective. My motivation was simple.  Good jobs were hard to find in the Ohio Valley, mainly dominated by coal and steel. My choices consisted of working in the mines or aluminum plants, joining the military…or attending college. The fourth of five children, I was the first to attend college.  My “grounding point” came one day as I was cleaning the walls of our neighbor’s dairy farm milking stations. That day, I paused and thought to myself…”There’s got to be something better!”    

Every step you take…you learn. Farm life taught me common sense, a few engineering basics and much more.  Curiosity was my playground and I had all the farm toys and tools at my disposal. Engineering was second nature and in many cases necessary. From operating machinery, to tearing apart small engines and repairing cars, to helping build homes, to calculating how much mortar and sand would be needed for brick structures, I gained a range of experience.  High school sports taught me discipline and teamwork.  My family’s love of music brought out my artistic side which to this day is my passion.   College helped me understand why things were the way they were, taught me independence and gave me the courage and confidence to reach beyond my boundaries.

So how did I end up at NASA?  To this day I still ask myself the same question.  It must have been divine guidance. With a Bachelors Degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering from Ohio University in hand, I once again found myself with limited job choices. I opted to return for my MSEE and became a research assistant at the Ohio University Avionics Engineering Center where I specialized in computational electromagnetics.  I graduated with honors and sent my resume to Aerospace companies that were located near any beach…as well as one to NASA Ames Research Center.  I learned two lessons: 1. You’re allowed to dream big…and 2. A higher education opens more doors.

I accepted a position with the Military Technology Branch at NASA Ames. My career started as a technical monitor for the X-Wing project. Then I began applying my degree as I worked on Cray Supercomputers, performing electromagnetic analyses on aircraft technologies that eventually led to the X-36 tailless fighter.  With the fall of the Berlin Wall came limited funding for stealth aircraft research. During this time I strengthened my software development skills but still had a desire to be more hands on and to design circuitry.  After four years, I made a career decision to move to the Electronics and Sensors Branch where I learned circuit design and embedded software development. I also learned the importance of a schedule and the importance of planning and effectively managing projects. Mentors were invaluable and the ability to mentor came with experience. During this time I helped develop Science Instruments that I helped remotely test in Brazil, Ireland, and New Mexico.  I began to thoroughly enjoy working with microcontrollers and embedded systems. I also began to manage the development of the projects and mentoring students.  A highlight was working on the PSA (Personal Satellite Assistant) project in which work felt more like “play” than actual “work”. The PSA is a robotic astronaut assistant/monitor intended for use on the International Space Station and was featured on the Discovery Channel. As NASA began to change direction, I helped write proposals for new work…one of which eventually led to the award of the LCROSS (Lunar CRater Observation and Sensing Satellite) mission. The project manager offered me the deputy position, which I gratefully accepted.  So here we are today…working on a return to the moon mission in search of water.

Personal Information
Earlier I mentioned my passion being music, writing in particular.  Ideally, most people would love to have their hobby become their profession. In some cases, your hobby may not provide you the financial stability that you may require, especially if you have a family.  I’ve learned that the two can complement one another. Through the years, my job has required the creativity that keeps my interest and also provides the financial freedom to pursue my hobby.  Recently, I was able to complement my work by writing a song inspired by the project mission entitled “Water On The Moon.”  I’m still waiting for the MTV video =). Make the most of the talents you're given!

 
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