Anthony Martino | Bachelor of Science in physics, 1983 | Electronics engineer with NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.
Old Models | As a child, Martino’s boyhood hobbies were in the realm of electronics, radios and photography. “I took apart scrap things and made them into other things. I’d put together electronic kits like radios and model airplanes.”
New Models | He still puts things together, but the results are more difficult to pronounce—like composite infrared spectrometer and laser altimeter—and are likely to get loaded onto spaceships and shot into the heavens.
Up on the Roof | His time at Xavier helped hone his interest in physics and space, which he explored through holography, photography and astronomy courses. He has fond memories of using the telescopes of the first pseudo observatory—a fenced-off space on the roof of Hinkle Hall—where he produced his first photograph of a crudely blurry Saturn.
No Optical Illusion | Realizing his interest in telescopes, photography and astronomy spelled optics, he went to the University of Rochester’s optics institute for his Ph.D, which he earned in 1990, and quickly landed a position at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland.
Tough Stuff | “What attracted me and still keeps me here is we do the hard stuff,” he says. “Anything that’s really routine at most we’ll be watching contractors do it, but what we do is the stuff that’s cutting edge.”
Modern Marvels | Martino is the lead engineer on a team that designs, builds and tests optical instruments—high-tech telescopes that act like cameras—for scientific use. Optics is the science of light and its interaction with matter. Is it reflected, refracted, absorbed or transmitted? His job is to make an instrument that manipulates those effects to get a desired scientific result.
Make It Better | Martino’s team designed a new infrared spectrometer that does a better job of collecting infrared light than the one on the Voyager spacecraft. The team was responsible for increasing the distance of the spectrometer’s mirror as it moves back and forth so it could collect the light waves at a higher resolution—thus a better picture, allowing for more scientific data can be gathered.
Long Day’s Journey | The instrument was placed on the Cassini spacecraft and launched from Cape Canaveral in 1997. The spacecraft, named after the 17th century astronomer who differentiated Saturn’s rings, has passed by Venus and Jupiter—its instruments sending back information with each flyby—and will go into orbit around Saturn in July. It will be 72 million miles from earth.
The Reward | “It was very gratifying to see it was working the way it was designed and the scientists were making discoveries with it,” says Martino, who has participated in 10 space missions. “I’m looking forward to seeing the instrument start doing the job we built it to do.”