Q&A with Lawrence Penepent: Reaching for the stars, one possible dream out of many constellations

Delta+IV

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Delta IV

The world holds numerous possibilities of career choices for curious seniors in high school, the neophytes starting in college, and mere adults still venturing for the right vocation for them. What jobs are out in the world that portray one’s interests?

Lawrence Penepent lives in Orlando Florida and is the Lead Mechanical Engineer of Launch Pad Operations for the Delta IV Launch Vehicle. He has worked in this career for more than 20 years. Having had the immense interest of being an Aviator and having had the dreams of flying, led to the inevitable choice of having his current job.

“I always had an interest in the space industry but never thought to make it a career,” Penepent said.

Anything can happen and here are the ways that Penepent built his life foundation upon and how he found the path that took him to his career.

 

What colleges did you attend and with what degrees did you earn?

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Daytona Beach Florida, Bachelor of Science in Aeronautical Engineering, Rollins College Crummer School of Business, Winter Park Florida and Master of Business

Why did you choose to pursue this career?

Actually, while attending Embry-Riddle obtaining my Bachelor of Science in Aeronautical Engineering, I did not entertain the thought of a career in aerospace.  My focus was specific to aircraft design, fabrication and testing.  I had a few job prospects but nothing of real major excitement. By luck one day, while reviewing the Career Center job posting cork board at Embry-Riddle, I found a posting for a Delta Rocket Operations Engineer located at Cape Canaveral Air Force Base.  I thought to myself, this might be an interesting career choice at the Space Center in Florida.

 What are your common interests?

One of my passions is being an Aviator.  I have been flying aircraft since I was 15 years old and plan on owning my own airplane in the near future.  Not only do I look forward to owning and flying my own airplane, I plan on performing all the maintenance and work on the airplane.  I also look forward to the many adventures traveling throughout the United States, flying with family and friends and teaching family and friends how to fly.  Most of my life I had dreams of flying.  By the time I was in 3rd grade I knew how to fly an airplane by reading books.  My real dream was to become a Fighter Pilot but was found to be partially color blind which ended that idea.  So, the next best thing in my mind was to go to the best school to learn how to design Aircrafts.  My search of schools had me focused on Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University for aeronautical engineering.

 What milestones have occurred within your period of working within in this career?

  • In 1988 (President Reagan administration), the U.S. announces a new space policy that includes a new Commercial Space Initiative to encourage U.S. commercial satellite launches to be be privatized and limit NASA’s involvement in commercial space operations.
  • 1989 > First Delta II Commercial Launch (BSB-R1 British Satellite Broadcasting)
  • Mars Missions

*1996 – Delta II > Mars Global Surveyor

*1996 – Delta II > Mars Pathfinder

*1998 – Delta II > Mars Climate Orbiter

*1999 – Delta II > Mars Polar Lander

*2001 – Delta II > Mars Odyssey, 2002 Odyssey finds possible evidence of water on Mars

*2003 – Delta II > MER-A (Mars Exploration Rover-Spirit)

*2003 – Delta II > MER-B (Mars Exploration Rover-Opportunity)

*2007 – Delta II > Phoenix Mars Lander, Martian arctic explorer set to find water/ice on Mars north pole due to 2002 Mars Odyssey Orbiter discoveries.  2008 Phoenix finds proof of water ice (85 percent CO2 ice & 15 percent water ice) on Mars.

Does your career impact you a lot in life(i.e. do you have a hard time juggling your career with family, hobbies, etc.? Does the job take away a lot of time of the day?)

As in most careers you need to learn to find a balance between your career and your personal life.  Most of the players on this team are good at using the rocket mission processing schedules to identify opportunities to plan vacations and time away from work without impacting the team.  Typically, the leadership within the team is able to be flexible with the resources to allow personnel the opportunities to balance their lives with their work schedules.  As with life, there are times of give and take.  When we are busy or under demand to meet critical milestones within the business everyone steps up to meet the challenge as a team.

Starting from anywhere and, at least, having the basic idea of which direction one is headed, anyone may find their vocational dreams to be successful. Beginning with the educational background and hands-on experience through life, one shall be prepared for any kind of dream they chase. All they have to do is simply reach for the stars.