Project Manager for Planetary Spacecraft
Spin Off (SO): Tell us about your day job.
Alexandria Ware (AW): I manage data centers for planetary spacecraft. This means that I coordinate the design, development, and operation of the computer systems that process and distribute science data from missions to other planets. So far, I’ve mostly worked on Mars missions like NASA’s MAVEN and the upcoming Emirates Mars Mission, which launches in 2020. I’ve also been involved with the upcoming Europa Clipper mission, and I’m working on a project involving very small Earth-orbiting satellites. All of this fun stuff happens at the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) at the University of Colorado, Boulder.
SO: How did you become a spinner?
AW: In 2006, I moved to Colorado and started going to the local knitting group, where I met former Interweave staffer Anne Merrow and Kate Gagnon Osborn of Kelbourne Woolens. One evening, Kate threw a party at her house, and she was just learning to spin. It looked interesting, so Anne and I signed up for Maggie Casey’s introduction to spinning class at Shuttles, Spindles & Skeins. At the end of the course, I bought my Lendrum and that was that!
SO: Do your job and your hobbies ever overlap?
AW: No, although I am currently knitting a Honey Cowl in the Blue Moon Fiber Arts colorway Space Dust; my senior thesis in college was all about space dust.
SO: What is your favorite thing about spinning?
AW: I love how tactile it is, and how instantly productive it is, although it usually takes me forever to actually spin enough to knit with. All of my work is done on a computer, so I find it really gratifying to sit in front of this lovely wooden machine and see how all the parts work together to create something tangible.
SO: Can you tell us what a typical day at the office is like?
AW: Mostly meetings! While I have a very technical job, I spend most of my time coordinating and documenting designs and plans. This means talking to people and making sure that the scientists and engineers and programmers are all in agreement about how the data from our spacecraft will be processed and delivered. A fun fact about LASP is that we frequently celebrate anniversaries of spacecraft: 3 years since MAVEN launched and 40 years since Voyager flew by Jupiter. And we always have cake, usually with a picture of the spacecraft on it.
SO: Do you have a fun fact about space dust?
AW: One of the instruments on the New Horizons spacecraft, which recently flew past Pluto, is a dust counter that counts particles of space dust. It’s called the Student Dust Counter, because it was entirely designed, built, tested, and operated by University of Colorado students working at LASP.
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This article was originally published in the Summer 2019 issue of Spin Off.