Journey to Juno
Will is a software engineer for Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver, which built and tested the Juno spacecraft before its trip to Florida in May to prepare for launch. Will’s work on Juno involved a rigorous environmental testing schedule that simulated all conceivable mission conditions to expose any issues before the craft’s launch into space.
Juno will arrive at Jupiter in July 2016 and orbit the planet for a year before its return to Earth. It will measure how much water is in Jupiter’s atmosphere, which should help determine which planet formation theory is correct, or if new theories are needed, and it will look deep into Jupiter’s atmosphere to measure composition, temperature, cloud motions and other properties. Juno will map Jupiter’s magnetic and gravity fields, to examine the planet’s deep structure and explore and study the magnetosphere near the planet’s poles, especially the auroras – Jupiter’s northern and southern lights – to provide new insights into how the planet’s enormous magnetic force field affects its atmosphere.
Will answered a few questions for HC during the spacecraft’s thermal vacuum testing in March.
HC: Would you describe your role as the Flight Software Integrator for the Juno Spacecraft at Lockheed Martin?
HC: How has your degree in Physics from Hastings College helped you in your career?
Fehringer: As a FSW Integrator, my case is somewhat unusual in that I don’t have an academic background in software or computer engineering. When I left high school, I had a general interest in science, and physics, to me, touched everything. Physics wasn’t easy and that is precisely where I benefitted. I really learned how to think. Some of Dr. Sachtleben’s multiple-choice physics tests were the most difficult I have taken. In Dr. Throckmorton’s Mathematical Physics course, I finally understood all those prior math courses, because I could apply it to something that was concrete. The spectrum of topics covered in Physics at Hastings College allowed me to adapt over my career and obtain the position I have now. Dr. Sachtleben and Dr. Throckmorton had different approaches to teaching, but the one thing they had in common was enthusiasm. Because of their differences, I learned to approach problems with more than one method.
HC: What is an important piece of advice you would give current Hastings College students majoring in Physics?
Fehringer: 1) Work the problem until you understand it. Getting the correct answer doesn’t matter unless you know how you got there. 2) Take advantage of the Interim [J-Term] and take a class in something entirely different. I spent one interim studying and trying my hand at art. Don’t be afraid to be creative because that is how you will solve the toughest problems.
HC: How do you stay connected to Hastings College?
Fehringer: I was very excited about the new science building. I spent about 90 percent of my life on campus in the old science building, and I made the trip out for the dedication of the new building.
HC: What is your favorite Hastings College memory?
Fehringer: For me, Hastings College was just the right size, and I enjoyed my four years there. During the Interim [J-Term] of my junior year, we went to Chicago and, among the places we visited, we went to Fermilab. That was cool! We made holograms. There wasn’t a great deal of documentation on the process, and one of my tasks was to develop the film. We had some hologram celluloid created by previous classes, but our piece of film, after I had developed it, didn’t really look like the previous examples. However, when we turned off the lights and shined the laser through the film, it showed a perfect hologram of a six-sided die.
The launch window for Juno from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida opens August 5, 2011. To read more about Juno and the details of its mission, visit http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/juno/main/index.html