A rocket scientist is counting down to the final launch of her career
Kennesaw, Georgia. | November 21, 2023
The idea that it’s never too late to start something new runs through Karen Gandy’s head in the same way it did in the 1990s. Gandhi was then in her thirties, and although she had tried many different jobs, she had yet to find a career that excited her passion.
She applied and was accepted to Southern Polytechnic State University, now Kennesaw State University. This choice launched Gandhi’s career in rocket science and set her on the life path she is contemplating as she prepares to launch her final satellite and then retire.
When Gandhi was a computer science student at SPSU, she needed a job to help pay her bills. Since Lockheed Martin was located across the street from campus, she applied there and was hired as a student assistant.
“The first time I walked into the Lockheed Martin Aerospace BI building, I felt a little funny,” Gandy said. “I couldn’t put my finger on it. Then I realized I was the only woman in sight. Now, nearly 30 years later, there are more women in aviation, but the workforce is still mostly men.”
Gandhi attributes much of her success to her former teacher, Bob Harbert.
“Dr. Harbort took me under his wing,” said Gandhi. “He had a great, long, white beard, and he didn’t look like what one might expect. But he saw the potential in me and pushed me to go further.
Gandy graduated in December 1999 and was hired full-time at Lockheed. Eventually, it was transferred to Lockheed Martin Space in Littleton, Colorado and assigned to the Geostationary Operations Environmental Satellite (GOES) program.
“My former mission operations director called me and said she needed some extra help in Littleton,” Gandy said. “A Surge is what they call a person who comes and helps them out of a very difficult predicament where they do not have enough manpower. I came and helped me and they gave me a promotion and asked me to stay.”
Currently, a series of three GOES weather satellites sit in geosynchronous orbit above Earth. They all use sophisticated on-board instruments that monitor specific weather patterns. GOES satellites track hurricanes, lightning strikes and wildfires, and they also measure ocean temperatures. Gandhi says the GOES satellites are credited with capturing a 2022 volcanic eruption in the Pacific Ocean.
Gandhi He writes Computer software for U goes satellite And You will challenge anyone Who underestimates its importance? Her education, background, and role.
“I’m working on the aviation program that makes the thing fly,” Gandhi quipped. “No matter how many billions of dollars you spend on all this gadgetry, it’s just a big piece of junk unless you have a flight program. Period.”
Although progress has been made in gender equality since she began her career and more women are entering computer science and engineering fields, Gandhi said she still faces sexism.
“In everything, they are biased,” Gandhi said. “A lot of times I talk to a man, and I get the ‘manly’ thing. But I think to myself, this is their issue and their bias.”
Gandhi is also heavily involved in the satellite’s testing phase, which involves a months-long thermal vacuum testing period in which the satellite is placed in a chamber that simulates the full range of temperature and pressure changes as well as the vibrations expected in space.
“What I’m involved with is just amazing. Hundreds of people come together, and you end up with a product like this,” Gandhi said.
The fourth and final weather satellite in the GOES series, GOES U, is currently scheduled for launch in April 2024. In addition to the instruments on board previous GOES satellites, Go yo It will have a built-in coronagraph (CCOR) instrument that takes images of the sun’s corona to monitor space weather. Initial integration and testing of CCOR was done using the CCOR tool simulator Gandhi responsible. After the launch, Gandhi will retire.
“It is the last spacecraft in this series to be launched, and it seems like the right time to exit the program,” Gandy said. “I’m in my mid-60s and ready to enjoy life after that. But I’m really proud of how everything turned out.
Gandhi would end her career with no regrets about the path she had chosen.
“There were times when I thought maybe I had gone too far, or reached too high, or been trying to get ahead of myself,” Gandy said. “But I stuck with it. And I’m saying this now: Don’t let those negative thoughts get in the way of your dream. Remember, it’s never too late to be what you could have been. You’re not on a timetable. If you have a dream, or a goal, and you want to achieve something… What, you just get out there and do it.”
– Written by Amanda Cook
A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral degrees to more than 43,000 students. Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia, which includes 11 academic colleges. The campus’s vibrant culture, diverse population, strong global connections, and entrepreneurial spirit attract students from all over the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 7 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 designation. For more information, visit kennesaw.edu.