JPL Engineer Marc Rayman Reflects on Ion Propulsion and Being a Star Trek Fan

StarTrek.com interviews Marc Rayman

StarTrek.com interviews Marc Rayman

StarTrek.com posted a video interview this week with NASA JPL engineer Marc Rayman. He’s JPL’s chief engineer for mission operations and science, which means he’s responsible for all of the missions that are in space. And he was inspired by Star Trek.

In the video, Rayman reflected on when he was first hooked on Star Trek, saying, “We started watching Star Trek when my older brother watched it when it was on in reruns, and I immediately fell in love with it.” He went on to explain that his love for the franchise grew as he got older. He said, “The first class I ever skipped was in graduate school, when a Star Trek movie opened and I thought, which do I want to do? See the opening of a new Star Trek movie or go to a Friday afternoon class in statistical mechanics and thermodynamics? It was a pretty easy call. I went to Star Trek.”

Rayman went on to describe some of the missions he worked on, and a couple of them used ion propulsion, a concept he recalls first learning about from Star Trek. He said, “One of the missions I was lucky enough to work on at JPL is called Deep Space One and I was in charge of this mission. It was the first spacecraft to use ion propulsion for interplanetary travel. And I first heard of ion propulsion in the episode ‘Spock's Brain.’” Rayman also recalled working on the Dawn mission, which ended just last year. It was the first ever to orbit two extraterrestrial destinations, and that mission used ion propulsion too.

Rayman knows exactly how exciting it is to get to do his job. He said, “I've been an incredible Star Trek fan my whole life, and even now getting to work at JPL, really just a big kid here. I still love Star Trek and I often think about how lucky I am [...] I feel like I'm living Star Trek.”

Alison Pitt