L'Team - Featuring Matt Garrison

Sep 17, 2020

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.

What is your role on the Lucy team?

I’m the Instrument Systems Engineer for the L’Ralph instrument. Basically I’m responsible for the engineering effort to develop the instrument under our Principal Investigator, Dennis Reuter.

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

I lucked out and got a job at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center right out of graduate school. I started in the thermal engineering branch, working on the James Webb Space Telescope, Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, and ICESat-2’s laser altimeter instrument. Near the end of ICESat-2, I transitioned into a systems engineering role. My first real job as a lead systems engineer came on L’Ralph.

What has been your favorite part of the mission?

The concept of operations for the mission is so different from what I’m used to. On the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and ICESat-2, we’re just continually orbiting a target and constantly streaming data. Lucy only has a few asteroids to study, and we quickly fly by each one only once. That forces a whole lot of changes into how you design the hardware and how you operate it. Figuring this out has been a lot of fun.

Best Lucy team memory?

For a while, I was the only Matt on the project. After a while, they brought on a really talented and funny payload systems engineer named Matt Beasley. I made a crack once that his goatee means he should be Evil Matt, and somehow that stuck. By default, I became Good Matt. We are still trying to figure out what to call the 3rd Matt that just recently joined Lucy.

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

Since this is my first time as a lead instrument systems engineer, most things on Lucy have been brand new to me. Thankfully I’ve had a great support network of experienced engineers on the project and throughout NASA Goddard Space Flight Center who are willing to help guide me.

Please describe a time when a Lucy experience was most gratifying to you.

Now that we are building and testing flight hardware, sometimes things go a little wrong. One of my jobs is to lead any failure review boards. This involves gathering up a team of specialists to gather all of the observable evidence, investigating what went wrong, and figuring out a good path forward. Most of us got into engineering to solve problems, and this is a way to do it on a larger scale.

Favorite cocktail and why?

I’m a sucker for a good Old Fashioned because deep down I just want those kids to get off my lawn.

How would you finish this sentence… The best part of the job is?

Getting to work with a lot of interesting, smart, and kind people. And I guess Michael Vincent. (feel free to leave that last part out!)