I grew to love the science of space along the route of science fiction. I started reading it when I was 9 (over 60 years ago--my mother was wonderfully progressive and allowed me to explore). Terrific authors like Jack Vance and Ray Bradbury, followed by equally talented novelists and scientists like Silverberg, Wolfe, and Benford, stoked the imagination. Working for NASA after I got my engineering degree was so natural-feeling, I stayed for 34 years. I had bit parts in the Apollo and ion engine programs, along with years in aero and space propulsion research. Now our robotic visitors to the planets are a joy to follow. I still love SF and NASA, but I guess I'm a little too old to go to Mars!
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