Meet NASA's "Science Daddy" who is helping us understand Mars



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Space Agency NASA launched its last mission to Mars in May. it is Discernment The probe landed successfully on the planet last week, much to the relief of its associated scientists and engineers on Earth.

Since landing, InSight successfully deployed its solar panels and began to analyze the Martian surface. Soon, he will make a probe under the ground to analyze more deeply what is happening below ground level.

'The entry, descent and disembarkation [EDL] was impeccable ", enthusiasm Dr. Troy Lee Hudson, who is involved with the project from day one. "Everything went very well."

Hudson, 40, works for the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). He's been at JPL since 2008. Hudson's official position is "Technologist 3," but he says "planetary scientist and instrument systems engineer" best sums up his role.

Hudson worked with JPL colleagues on the proposal to NASA for the current InSight mission and was involved in several stages of the project.

He helped test the underground "mole" that InSight will dig into the ground and analyze some of the data that InSight has already begun to send back.

Troy Lee Hudson Talks to School Children About NASA's Work

Troy Lee Hudson talks to school children about NASA's work as part of InSight's road show (Photo: NASA)

Fall in love with space

Since childhood, Hudson has been fascinated by the cosmos. He decided in high school that he wanted to work in the space industry.

"I wanted to be an astronaut," he admits. "I wanted to live and work in space, but even if you're perfectly qualified, it's an unlikely proposition because few people can be astronauts." So I focused on a career that would allow me to do things in space, even if I was not physically.

Hudson talks to me via Skype at his home in Los Angeles. Her boyfriend, Matt, moves to the bottom, while above Hudson's head is a cell phone from the solar system – the planets spinning gently. His fascination with the planets goes back.

It was created in Houston, Texas, not far from the Johnson Space Center.

"I was born in 1977, when the Voyagers were released, and also at the time we launched Viking to Mars. So in my formative years in the early 1980s, there was Voyager doing their big tour of the Solar System.

This has made a big impact on his young mind, as did the Space Shuttle's first programs. His mother was also a big fan of Carl Sagan and young Troy devoured the Cosmos TV documentary, as well as anything in National Geographic related to space.

Hudson left Houston in 1996 to study at MIT in Boston, where he earned two bachelor's degrees. He did a one-year internship with NASA before attending graduate school at Caltech. He chose specifically because of his affiliation close to JPL.

Touchdown and celebration

Although he has been working non-stop on the mission to Mars for the past six years, he sees his profile boosted since the launch of InSight on the planet. Images of a Hudson tattooed beating with joy when he heard the news that the probe landed safely became viral.

The spectators with eagle eyes noticed that he was wearing a Pride badge. And a leather thigh harness. It was not a coincidence.

'I wear the Pride badge whenever I represent myself professionally, such as when I lecture externally or do an interview. It has always been my hope to reach out to some people who are gay and who are scientists or technicians, and to show them, yes, you can be so successful and open and open.

'It's my way of fighting LGBTQIA invisibility and I encourage other people in the STEM[[[[Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics]do the same.

"The most powerful thing you can do to another person is to show her that she is not alone."

At NASA

Hudson says he has never had problems professionally being a gay man at work. JPL has a network of LGBTI staff resources called Spectrum, and Hudson firmly believes in being a positive role model.

He joined Twitter a few weeks ago and is catching followers with his educational and informative videos about space and the InSight mission.

Hudson admits that his "Science Daddy" tag is a tribute to his gay followers. He was touched when a young man wrote to him to tell him how inspiring he was.

"I have received letters from exciting gay scientists, thanking me for being so open and public. Seeing someone like me, they realize that there may be many people like them and suddenly they are not alone.

"If you ask a homosexual, or any member of the public, to name a scientist or engineer, they can give you Stephen Hawking, Einstein or maybe Bill Nye.

'But you would literally have a zero response if you asked a member of the general public to appoint a gay or lesbian scientist or engineer.

"To know that this message came out and really affected people, and people saw me and realized that they are not alone, this is a message I have been dreaming of giving to people. Now, suddenly, I have a bigger stage and that is great.

Father of science

And where did "Science Daddy" come from?

"I joined Twitter on Sunday[[[[a week before talking to the Gay Star News], with the expectation that there would be some buzz after landing InSight. And one guy posted this tweet saying, "Why are not we talking about dad's engineer working on the InSight mission?" I found it hilarious and retweeted.

Someone on Twitter nicknamed him "Science Daddy" and he adopted it.

"Daddy," as a sort of descriptive term of affection in the gay male world is a nickname with which I have snore a few years ago. But yeah, "Science Daddy:" That's got a ring for that! "It seemed right and I thought about running with it."

Since then, he's been catching fans for his deep knowledge of InSight and his … well, daddy's charm. Can we talk about the leather leg harness?

"Yes, my little thigh harness, which is a fashion accessory," he points out, "but it was a little Easter Egg for that community to understand. But I use it all the time. It's not like it's an unusual part of my style.

An "Easter Egg," in geek jargon, is a hidden item placed in a movie, game, TV show for particularly close observers. It's just another way for Hudson to say, "This is me."

Troy Lee Hudson and an InSight lander model

Troy Lee Hudson and InSight Probe Model (Photo: Provided)

Exploring the moons of Saturn

For anyone with a vague interest in space, talking to Hudson is a delight. His passion for space and for sharing his knowledge of the galaxy is contagious. It occupies a rare position, encompassing the world of engineering and science ("the two fields sometimes speak a different language").

InSight will strongly engage Hudson by the spring of 2019. InSight is expected to send back data for at least one year of Mars (708 days). However, as Hudson explains, it could continue.

"The wonderful thing is that after we make the deployment, after the robotic arm goes out and put the instruments in, we will have no moving parts after that point. Unlike the Mars robots that had their wheels and stuff.

"As long as InSight's solar panels continue to produce power, we can generate data – seismic data and heat flow data – for a decade."

However, Hudson is already thinking about future projects. He is currently working on more JPL proposals to compete for NASA ("I can not discuss them"). He is also helping to design a life-detection instrument.

"This is something that may eventually go to the global ocean under the ice of Europe, or to Titan, or Enceladus, another moon of Saturn.

"You have to have something that goes there and grabs the ice and drinks the water and looks for proteins and amino acids and maybe even bacteria – something that is indicative of life. And that's a complicated thing.

"It's something I can work on for a few years, but I like to go downstairs on a project and just stick with it for a while, I did it with InSight and it's great.

"I want people to know that scientists and engineers are not castrated automata"

He is committed to encouraging other gays to pursue their passions and to think about careers in science and engineering. NASA is not the only agency that now offers space careers, with Virgin Galactic's SpaceX program and Elon Musk also on the field. And your sexuality should not matter.

"Growing up in Houston, Texas, I was teased because I was the smart kid, not because I was gay. I've never experienced any negativity based on my being gay.

"I used to ride a motorbike and I wore my leather pants to work, and I have other equipment attached, I would wear my Pride shirts and other things, and no one blinks, because they only care about how you think and how you interact with This is the thing about NASA, it's cooperative, not competitive.

And if, in addition to conquering new worlds, it can help change perceptions around scientists and engineers, better yet.

"Sexuality and science generally do not go together in the eyes of the public," he reflects.

"I think there is a misconception that academics are not adventurous or distracted from their own sexuality by their brain studies and interests, and that view makes scientists seem to be something" other "than human. It's a perception that generates distance and maybe even distrust.

"I want people to know that scientists and engineers are not castrated automata, we expect and dream and love and desire, like everyone else.

"You do not have to choose between being" cerebral "and being" carnal "- both are part of the beauty of human experience."

See too

Planet Jupiter is now trans and here are the best tweets about its output

Sally Ride is getting its own label next year

Pro-wrestler comes out gay after finding love – read his inspiring story

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