L'Team - Featuring Zach Talpas

Dec 11, 2019

While a robot may be the one visiting the Trojan asteroids, people are responsible for getting it there. In L’Team we meet some of the people that make the Lucy Mission possible.

Zach Talpas enjoying one a walk in Chautauqua park in Boulder, CO.

What is your role on the Lucy team?

I help Jon Pineau with systems engineering, so the design and management of complex systems that consider all aspects of a project such as the equipment and testing done at the Science Operations Center or computer facility where the team is staying ahead of the spacecraft during its journey. The Ground System area is a focus of my role that includes mission control centers, remote centers, launch facilities. So far I’ve been working on a lot of spacecraft requirements, developments and test planning.

Please describe the path you’ve taken to get here.

I’ve loved all things space my entire life, and was inspired by father and grandfather who are both aerospace engineers. This led me to go to the University of Colorado Boulder, where I graduated with a BS in aerospace engineering in May of this year (2019). The summer before that, I interned working on the Orion space capsule where I worked on the service module mechanism and the pyrotechnic devices as part of the Systems Engineering and Integration team. This gave me a lot of good experience with writing test procedures and managing requirements. After graduating, I became an intern on Lucy doing what I am doing now, and at the end of the internship, I was offered a job to continue on.

What has surprised you the most about the mission?

The biggest surprise to me has been seeing the amazing amount of work that goes into building, launching, and then operating a satellite. No amount of projects and labs in college can prepare you for it.

What Lucy challenges have you overcome? How have you done this?

The most challenging thing that I’ve had to overcome has been the steep learning curve that comes with a program. I’ve gotten to learn so much from everyone that I work with and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.

What’s your favorite cocktail and why?

I’m a big fan of all the tropical drinks, especially if they’re served to me on a beach in Hawaii. Two favorites of mine would have to be Mai Tais and Blue Hawaiis.