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Meet the Team

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Alex Janas
Alden, NY
Lead Roboticist for RROxiTT, and Robotics Demonstration and Test Facility Robot Operator
SGT, Inc.

What kind of work do you do as a roboticist?

My job involves programming and driving industrial robots to simulate and test the tools and techniques for on-orbit robotic satellite servicing. I take tools designed by other NASA engineers and install them on a 2,800-pound, 7-foot-tall robot to practice performing satellite servicing tasks, such as cutting wires, removing caps, and manipulating insulation blankets. I also evaluate the tools and pass along feedback to the designers on their performance and design.

What is your favorite part of the job?

Every day is different, but each one brings exercises in troubleshooting and critical thinking. My favorite parts of the job include driving our ground robot using joysticks just like a video game to test tools from the Robotic Refueling Mission (RRM); developing, practicing, and conducting zero-gravity flight experiments; and working side-by-side with International Space Station robot operators, guiding them on how to perform RRM tasks on orbit from the Mission Control Center at Johnson Space Center.

What first interested you in working for NASA?

I've always been a fan of science and technology, but what steered me towards NASA are the experiments and revolutionary breakthroughs that the Agency supports for the purpose of benefiting science and mankind. NASA accomplishes feats so extraordinary that people sometimes have doubts that we have come so far- but this unbelievable work happens every day.

Where did you go to high school and college, and what degrees did you receive?

I graduated from Alden Central High School in a small town in western New York in 2005. I earned my bachelor's degree in aerospace engineering from the University of Maryland, College Park in 2009.

How did your education prepare you for your work at NASA?

Classes at the University of Maryland (UMD) provided me with the technical foundation for a wide array of disciplines (such as thermal, mechanical, robotics, electrical, systems, etc.) associated with any flight project. My most valuable experience in robotic technology and teamwork came from my participation in the student-run robotics club at UMD. Our club designed and built an autonomous underwater vehicle that won an international design competition. Beyond the classroom, clubs, competitions, and internships provided me with the unique skills and knowledge necessary for a career at NASA.

What made you want to work in satellite servicing, and what interests you the most about it?

Operating robots in space while traveling at 20,000 miles per hour to grab onto and fix satellites sounds pretty awesome, doesn't it? There is no doubt that we are pushing the envelope in technology development, and nothing is more exciting than performing cutting-edge research.

How long have you been at NASA?

I started working on satellite servicing technology with NASA in 2009.

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