The successful landing this morning of NASA’s $2.5 billion Mars Rover is the culmination of 10 years work by 5,000 people including University of Idaho College of Engineering alumnus Matt Braley.
Braley is the data collection instrumentation engineer for Curiosity, the Mars River that stuck its landing after a 352 million mile leap. Braley designed and built much of the data collection system on the spacecraft both while a student and in his current job at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena.
The southern California native served for eight years in the US Air Force as a technician servicing high performance jet fighters before coming to the University of Idaho to earn a bachelor’s of science degree in electrical engineering in 2005.
Braley began his work for NASA through Electrical Engineering Professor Herb Hess had worked with NASA on electric power generation on silicon chips and lithium microbatteries. Through that partnership, NASA sent electronics that Braley designed into orbit while he was still a U-Idaho student.
“Matt is a genius with computerized instrumentation data collection,” said Hess.
Braley went right from the University of Idaho to the lab and was assigned to the Mars Rover. When Hess visited him a couple of years later he had already assembled its entire instrument data collection system.
Today, his work is on the surface of Mars sending back data that lays the groundwork for a future when men and women explore the Red Planet.
“In terms of student success stories, they just don’t get any better than that,” Hess said in a press release.