Observation Campaign Team Member—Anita Cochran
The following interview was conducted by the Stardust-NExT Education and Public Outreach team and Anita Cochran in May, 2012.What was your role in the Stardust-NExT mission?
I was part of the wider astronomical community that contributed observations of the target comet to the effort!
Can you share one of the unique aspects of the Stardust-NExT mission that fascinates you most?
Getting to go back six years later and see what has changed on the comet in that time lends a fascinating insight into comet activity.
Is this the first NASA mission you've worked with? If no, explain
I was on the Comet Rendezvous Asteroid Flyby Mission Imaging team.This mission was canceled before flight. I was a Co-Investigator on the Comet Nucleus Tour (CoNTour) Mission. I am also Co-Investigator on the Comet Hopper Mission (currently in the start-up stage of the mission).
What is your job outside of the Stardust-NExT mission?
I am the Assistant Director of the University of Texas McDonald.
What is the most interesting aspect about your job that you'd like people to know about?
Observing a comet in a way that has not been done before is fun. Being able to be paid for something that is so interesting is great.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? Who inspired you? Please talk about the path that led you to your area of interest.
I knew I wanted to go into science at a relatively young age, though I did not narrow in on Physics until my senior year of High School. I was a Physics Major in college and my advisor wanted me to sample other sciences. I took an astronomy course and was hooked. Astronomy is just applied physics.
If there was one thing you want the younger generation to understand about space exploration, what would it be?
If you can dream it, it can happen. But if you want to be part of future space exploration, you need to keep studying math and science!
Looking at the stars/sky means spending many hours observing the sky. How many hours do you typically spend and have you discovered anything?
As an observational astronomer, I spend many nights a year observing the sky. I have discovered fundamental knowledge about my targets. My goal is understanding, not discovery.
Do you have a yet-to-be-achieved life goal?
See the world and understand its cultures.