May 29, 2024

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The James Webb Space Telescope was a Career-Defining Project for Janet Barth

The James Webb Space Telescope was a Career-Defining Project for Janet Barth

Janet Barth spent most of her vocation at the Goddard House Flight Heart, in Greenbelt, Md.—which set her in the middle of some of NASA’s most fascinating assignments of the earlier 40 several years.

She joined the heart as a co-op scholar and retired in 2014 as chief of its electrical engineering division. She had a hand in Hubble Space Telescope servicing missions, launching the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and the Magnetospheric Multiscale mission, and creating the James Webb Place Telescope.


Barth, an IEEE Everyday living Fellow, carried out groundbreaking get the job done in analyzing the outcomes of cosmic rays and solar radiation on spacecraft observatories. Her instruments and techniques are however applied nowadays. She also assisted acquire science requirements for NASA’s Living With a Star application, which experiments the sunlight, magnetospheres, and planetary devices.

For her perform, Barth was honored with this year’s IEEE Marie Sklodowska-Curie Award for “leadership of and contributions to the progression of the layout, building, deployment, and operation of capable, strong place devices.”

“I continue to tear up just considering about it,” Barth claims. “Receiving this award is humbling. Absolutely everyone at IEEE and Goddard who I worked with owns a piece of this award.”

From co-op retain the services of to chief of NASA’s EE division

Barth originally attended the College of Michigan in Ann Arbor, to pursue a diploma in biology, but she quickly understood that it was not a great in good shape for her. She transferred to the College of Maryland in Faculty Park, and altered her main to applied arithmetic.

She was acknowledged for a co-op posture in 1978 at the Goddard heart, which is about 9 kilometers from the college. Co-op jobs allow college students to perform at a business and obtain encounter even though pursuing their degree.

“I was energized about using my examination and math skills to enable new science at Goddard,” she states. She executed study on radiation environments and their outcomes on digital methods.

Goddard hired her right after she graduated as a radiation and hardness assurance engineer. She assisted be certain that the electronics and components in area methods would complete as built following staying uncovered to radiation in area.

For the reason that of her experience in space radiation, George Withbroe, director of the NASA Solar-Terrestrial Physics application (now its Heliophysics Division), questioned her in 1999 to support publish a funding proposal for a program he wanted to launch—which turned Living With a Star. It obtained US $2 billion from the U.S. Congress and released in 2001.

Through her 12 many years with the program, Barth helped create the architecture document, which she says became a seminal publication for the area of heliophysics (the analyze of the sun and how it influences room). The doc outlines the program’s goals and goals.

In 2001 she was picked to be job manager for a NASA exam mattress that aimed to recognize how spacecraft are afflicted by their surroundings. The check bed, which gathered data from area to forecast how radiation may well influence NASA missions, productively completed its mission in 2020.

Barth arrived at the subsequent rung on her vocation ladder in 2002, when she became 1 of the first woman associate department heads of engineering at Goddard. At the area center’s Flight Data Methods and Radiation Results Department, she led a team of engineers who designed flight computers and storage methods. Despite the fact that it was a steep understanding curve for her, she states, she savored it. 3 a long time later, she was heading the branch.

She got a further marketing, in 2010, to main of the electrical engineering division. As the Goddard Engineering Directorate’s very first feminine division chief, she led a crew of 270 staff who designed, designed, and tested electronics and electrical devices for NASA instruments and spacecraft.

vintage photograph of woman smiling in group of 3 peopleBarth (still left) and Moira Stanton at the 1997 RADiation and its Consequences on Parts and Units Meeting, held in Cannes, France. Barth and Stanton coauthored a poster paper and obtained the outstanding poster paper award.Janet Barth

Operating on the James Webb House Telescope

All through her occupation, Barth was involved in the improvement of the Webb area telescope. Each time she believed that she was carried out with the significant venture, she says with a chortle, her path would “intersect with Webb yet again.”

She 1st encountered the Webb project in the late 1990s, when she was requested to be on the first review group for the telescope.

She wrote its space-environment technical specs. Immediately after they ended up revealed in 1998, even so, the crew understood that there were a number of complicated challenges to resolve with the telescope’s detectors. The Goddard staff supported Matt Greenhouse, John C. Mather, and other engineers to work on the challenging concerns. Greenhouse is a task scientist for the telescope’s science instrument payload. Mather gained the 2006 Nobel Prize in Physics for discoveries supporting the Massive Bang model.

The Webb’s detectors take up photons—light from much-away galaxies, stars, and planets—and transform them into electronic voltages. Barth and her staff labored with Greenhouse and Mather to verify that the detectors would operate while exposed to the radiation natural environment at the L2 Lagrangian place, a single of the positions in space exactly where human-sent objects tend to stay place.

Several years afterwards, when Barth was heading the Flight Details Methods and Radiation Results department, she oversaw the development of the telescope’s instrument command and details managing methods. Simply because of her critical function, Barth’s title was prepared on the telescope’s instrument ICDH flight box.

When she grew to become chief of Goddard’s electrical engineering division, she was assigned to the technical evaluation panel for the telescope.

“At that stage,” she claims, “we concentrated on the mechanics of deployment and the pitfalls that came with not being capable to entirely examination it in the setting it would be released and deployed in.”

She served on that panel until eventually she retired. In 2019, 5 a long time just after retiring, she joined the Miller Engineering and Research Corp. advisory board. The firm, primarily based in Pasadena, Md., manufactures areas for aerospace and aviation corporations.

“I truly like the ethics of the enterprise. They support science missions and crewed missions,” Barth states. “I went again to my roots, and that is been seriously gratifying.”

The most effective items about currently being an IEEE member

Barth and her husband, Douglas, who is also an engineer, joined IEEE in 1989. She suggests they appreciate belonging to a “unique peer team.” She specifically likes attending IEEE conferences, having obtain to journals, and getting able to just take continuing education programs and workshops, she says.

“I remain up to date on the enhancements in science and engineering,” she says, “and going to conferences keeps me inspired and motivated in what I do.” The networking opportunities are “terrific,” she adds, and she’s been in a position to satisfy folks from just about all engineering industries.

An energetic IEEE volunteer for more than 20 yrs, she is executive chairwoman of the IEEE Nuclear and Plasma Sciences Society’s Radiation Results Steering Team, and she served as 2013–2014 president of the IEEE Nuclear and Plasma Sciences Culture. She also is an associate editor for IEEE Transactions on Nuclear Science.

“IEEE has unquestionably benefited my job,” she says. “There’s no doubt about that.”