Sherwin Goo '83

Sherwin Goo '83

Aerospace Engineer, Jet Propulsion Lab
Sequencer for NASA's Cassini Mission to Saturn

What is your favorite memory as a student at 'Iolani?

Other than all of the friends I made at ‘Iolani over the years, my favorite memories involve the amazing teachers I had! These people encouraged and pushed me to strive for the best I could achieve. In particular, finishing my senior year with multiple AP classes and doing well on the exams brought a real sense of accomplishment.

Who was your most influential teacher at 'Iolani? Why?

Doc Inouye and Ms. Pamela Goto-Fujinaka taught me so much in physics and chemistry – they really opened up science to me in my junior and senior years. But the most influential one was Mr. Braden who taught calculus – he definitely wasn’t the easiest teacher to have but his techniques and methods still stay with me to this day! He literally believed calculus was the key to everything and it shaped his life and teaching philosophy.

In what way has your 'Iolani experience shaped your life after 'Iolani?

‘Iolani taught me a lot about organizing and budgeting my time – especially in my senior year with all the AP and college preparatory classes that I took. That was a very valuable skill to have in college, graduate school and work!

What influences from your 'Iolani experience do you bring to work and your NASA team?

There are no ‘easy’ jobs at JPL and NASA – developing the hardware, software and flight processes & procedures for a spacecraft requires a lot of hard effort, ingenuity and teamwork. ‘Iolani taught me all of those things – what I learned here laid the foundation for everything else.

What sparked your interest in aerospace engineering and interplanetary sciences?

I was always fascinated by the American space program – I remember reading old National Geographic magazines with accounts of the Mercury, Apollo and Skylab programs as a child. But I think the television show Star Trek really influenced me to explore strange new worlds and boldly go where no one has gone before! And thanks to working on projects like Cassini and Juno, I’m helping to do just that.

What were the biggest challenges you and your team faced throughout the Cassini mission? Your biggest accomplishments?

The Cassini spacecraft is one of the most complex vehicles ever to be launched for an unmanned outer planet research mission – we had enormous challenges in developing both our flight and ground processes to successfully fly this mission. I will always be proud that we had so much success with this near flawless mission to explore Saturn. I was also assigned to develop the sequences for getting Cassini into orbit around Saturn and launching the Huygens probe from Cassini for its soft landing on the moon of Titan – the successful completion of these activities was one of my most significant accomplishments of my career.

What advice would you give to aspiring young scientists about finding their passion or life's work?

This probably applies to more than finding a career in science! I know I was very lucky to have figured out early on that I had an avid interest in space exploration and aerospace engineering – and fortunate enough to have a career in this field today! I would tell these aspiring students to start as early as they can to see what interests and motivates them, as well as seeing what abilities they can utilize to succeed. One of the advantages they have today is that the Internet can provide literally a world of knowledge and choices at their fingertips.

Now that the Cassini mission has come to a close, what's next for you?

That’s a good question! I am working on closeout activities for Cassini now and continuing to develop sequences for Juno and its Jupiter polar orbiting mission. But eventually, I’ll need to figure out what I want to do next at JPL. I want to explore options and see what I would be passionate about working on in the future.

Sherwin Goo '83 graduating from Iolani School and then attended the University of California at Los Angeles, where he received his Bachelor’s Degree in aerospace engineering in 1987. He immediately went on to attend graduate school at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. After receiving his master’s degree in aerospace engineering, Sherwin returned to Los Angeles and began working for McDonnell Douglas in Long Beach. He then became a contractor for Jet Propulsion Laboratory in 1991 and supported real-time operations for the TOPEX-Poseidon spacecraft, which returned radar altimeter data about the currents and temperatures of Earth’s oceans.

Sherwin then decided to leave JPL in 1995 and work for Space Applications Corporation, a defense contractor working with the Air Force Satellite Control Network. He returned to JPL in 1996 to be a flight director for the Cassini-Huygens spacecraft, which went into orbit around Saturn in June 2004 and completed its mission in September 2017. Sherwin also serves on the mission sequencing team for the Juno spacecraft that began Jupiter orbital operations in July 2016.