Distinguished Alumnae Award - La Reina High School

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13 Νοε 2013 (πριν από 4 χρόνια και 6 μήνες)

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Distinguished Alumnae Award Goes to Corey Harmon ’98

Corey Harmon, Class of 1998, received t
he 2012
13 Distinguished Alumna

Award on December
5, at a schoolwide assembly.
A Systems Engineer at Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena and a NASA
employee, Corey is

a part of the team that launched Curiosity, the Mars rover, in August.

Jennifer Dransfeldt McGee, member of the Alumnae Board and former Distinguished Alumna,
Corey to the student bod
y this way:

“Corey works 50 to 60 hour work weeks. But,
ike the rest of us, Corey can launch, land and support a little tiny car on a

t 48 million
miles away.”

Once the rover touched down on Mars, Corey, who has worked on the Curiosity project since
2008, was moved to the landing team where she is curren
tly working.

In fact,
has been at JPL since she began an internship as a freshman at UCLA.

After she
received her B.S. from UCLA in Aeronautical Engineering, JPL offered her fulltime employment.

this time
, Corey has also earned an M.S. in
Astronautical Engineering at the University of
Southern California.

Being in the traditionally male world of engineering and space exploration is a non
issue for

La Reina helped in that regard, she says.

“La Reina definitely fostered the confide
nce I
needed to get through college.

If I don’t know how to do something, I know I can figure it out.

am able to do challenging things.”

In fact “challenging things” is what Corey loves best.

During her decade at JPL, Corey has “been
able to do a lit
tle bit of everything.” Her first assignment was to work on an ice probe for use in
the Antarctic, but her most exciting one to date has been the Mars
rover p

She has worked on every aspect of the project

the entry, the descent and the landing.

She has
conducted r
esearch on battery power,
what the software can do
, and problem solved

Problem solving is Corey’s passion. She describes what she does this way. “It’s like creating a toy,
then figuring out all the ways it could break, and
then figuring out all the ways to fix it. It’s fun.”

The Mars rover is a pretty impressive “toy.” From the Cal Tech website: “With its rover named
Curiosity, Mars Science Laboratory mission is part of
's Mars Exploration Program
, a long
term effort of robotic exploration of the red planet.

Curiosity was designed to assess whether Mars
ever had an environment able to support small life forms called microbes. In other words, its
mission is to determin
e the planet's ‘habitability.’ ”

On August 5, 2012, Corey
texted her mother

“Mom, I am landing a rover on Mars today.” Corey

at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory

with other engineers
. S
he wasn’t in the main room that
television viewers saw

was i
n the “War Room,” the room “where the engineers assessing the
entry and landing dynamics were working.”

As part

surface team
, Corey

is “currently planning engineering activities that execute on the
rover to support the operation of the science instruments.”

Corey loves the camaraderie of working on a team.

“JPL is more of a community.

We are in this
together. We all want it to work

She likens the feeling of this team to the way she felt at La Reina. “The school environment and
expectation were focused on bettering ourselves.

Everyone supported each other. It didn’t feel

La Reina had a community feeling, just the
way JPL does.”

Her work at JPL, she says, is very exciting. “These are one of a kind projects that are really
challenging. No one else in the world is doing them.”

NASA’s JPL and Cal Tech

signed a
five year contract to ensure that they will be working together on future projects.

Corey has no time right now to

think about the future.

For the p
resent, “I’m
making sure that the
rover is able to support all we are asking of it.” And the en
gineers are asking a lot of it. As Corey
points out, “There is no AAA in space, so the rover has to be able to take care of itself.”

If Mars is in
our future, you might want to contact Corey and find
the best way to be
transported. There is no doubt
she will be able to launch you, land you and support you.