Kepler Program Manager
John Troeltzsch is the Kepler mission program manager for Ball Aerospace.
Troeltzsch received his Bachelor of Science in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Colorado in 1983 and was immediately hired by Ball Aerospace. While working at Ball, Troeltzsch continued his studies at C.U. and received his Masters of Science in Aerospace Engineering in 1989.
During his 31 years at Ball Aerospace, Troeltzsch has worked on three of Hubble’s science instruments and in program management for the Spitzer Space Telescope. Following Spitzer’s launch in 2003, Troeltzsch joined Ball’s Kepler team and was named program manager in 2007. For the Kepler mission, Troeltzsch has managed the Ball team, including responsibility for cost, schedule, and performance requirements.
What’s the coolest thing about the Kepler mission?
In a blink of time, we have changed astronomy and the history of mankind. If you extrapolate the most recent Kepler results, half of the stars in the sky have planets – that would have been unbelievable 20 years ago. I worked on Hubble and I’m proud of it, but Kepler will be more significant – it will find more worlds out there just like us.
What is the key technology of the Kepler mission?
Kepler is a very sophisticated machine. Kepler uses a 0.95-meter diameter telescope and an array of 42 charge-coupled devices — the light-sensitive microchips at the heart of the most common digital cameras— Kepler will measure the change in brightness that occurs when a planet transits across the face of its parent star. From that light fluctuation in starlight — and time between transits — scientists can determine the size of the planet, the size of the planet’s orbit, and even approximate the planet’s temperature. The technology to undertake Kepler was not available until just a few years beforwe began, so we really were at the right place at the right time.
Do you think Kepler will find habitable planets?
I grew up watching ‘Star Trek,’ so I’m confident that there are a lot of planets out there. But if we get no result, that’s going to be just as profound.
What the best part of working at Ball Aerospace?
The ability to accomplish complicated things based on the ideas of a diverse group of people. You work as a team to bring all kinds of ideas forward and then step back to see what transpires.
How did you end up in the aerospace industry?
I grew up in Boulder and attended the University of Colorado which is a great place to study engineering. After obtaining my bachelor’s degree, I immediately landed a job at Ball and my second assignment was in California working on the Hubble Space Telescope program for Ball. I couldn’t believe they were paying me.
What is one yet-to-be achieved life goal?
I want to see my kids grow up and achieve their career goals and I want to travel to Alaska to see the Northern Lights.
What was one of the most exciting moments in your career?
Sitting in the control room at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center and watching an astronaut install the corrective optics, or COSTAR, into the Hubble Space Telescope, knowing I had touched the instrument on Earth just 10 days earlier and it would allow Hubble to return the magnificent science we now enjoy.
Who inspired you?
My father. I am a third generation engineer in my family. My father was a chemical engineer. His ability to solve problems, think clearly, and do math was inspirational.
What do you do in your spare time?
My family enjoys skiing, hiking, camping and sport rock climbing.
Tell us one thing we don’t know about John Troeltzsch?
I met my wife Michelle while working on the Hubble program.