A portrait of David Woerner.

David Woerner

Systems Formulation Manager | NASA Radioisotope Power Systems Program

What first sparked your interest in space and science?

Science fiction and the NASA Apollo Launches

How did you end up working in the space program?

I pushed in that direction and eventually was selected by a research laboratory at the University of Colorado that trained undergrads to fly a spacecraft called the Solar Mesosphere Explorer.

Tell us about your job. What do you do?

It is my job to establish requirements, identify mission and technology pull, provide tools for evaluating technologies, meet with planetary scientists about their wants and needs, provide strategic insight for the Radioisotiope Power Systems (RPS) Program, speak knowledgeably for the program, mentor junior engineers, and make the RPS Program a success.

(Radioisotope power) systems are novel, unique, complex, and oh so needed. The Sun only shines so brightly. Humankind is eager to explore the solar system in places where the Sun does not shine or shines too little.

David Woerner

Systems Formulation Manager

What would you like people to know about Radioisotope Power Systems?

These systems are novel, unique, complex, and oh so needed. The Sun only shines so brightly. Humankind is eager to explore the solar system in place where the Sun does not shine or shines too little. RPS will be used in space for the foreseeable future. No other technology is emergent.

Who inspires you?

Persons that treat me with respect, delegate to me, are not hurtful, are generous, and make the world a better place to live. People that believe in science. Examples, Tony Spear (Project Manager for the NASA/JPL Magellan and Mars Pathfinder missions) and June Zakrajsek (RPS Program Manager).

What have been some of your favorite projects to work on?

The Magellan, Mars Pathfinder, and Mars Science Laboratory missions.

What are some fun facts about yourself? (Hobbies, cool places you’ve been, personal anecdotes, etc.)

Photography is my primary hobby. I can go to desert junkyards and paint old wrecks with light and bring them to life. I have traveled a good deal. I have much more ground to explore, but Turkey was fabulous in 2003, not so sure now. China was fantastic in 2001, not so sure now. Singapore is fab. As is Peru. Much of Europe, Italy, France, Germany, Spain, Portugal, Budapest, magnifique. The world of human experiences is broad in scope and worth exploring. Don’t stop reading, pushing yourself to try something different even if others say stop. Don’t kill yourself, but reach for your limits.

What is your favorite RPS enabled space image and why?

The all seeing eye … not really, but it kind of feels that way. And I helped put it on Mars for the US and the world.

A Mars rover is parked among the tire tracks it made on Mars in this composite image.
A selfie of the Mars Science Laboratory’s Curiosity rover shortly after landing in Gale Crated. The Multi-Mission Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator is the finned object at the rear-end of the rover.
NASA/JPL-Caltech