NASA JPL Director and Planetary Scientist Charles Elachi says passion is the main factor in having the mindset that will set you apart to achieve unimaginable success.
Can passion open new horizons? Sure. It changed humanity’s perception of what spacecrafts can do and contributed to universe exploration.
Professor Charles Elachi is a renowned planetary scientist who has been the director of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory for 16 years. Throughout his career, he has been responsible for missions that put rockets across the solar system on Mars and Saturn.
“You have to be optimistic in this life. You have to be confident that you can achieve anything.” It will all be worth it.
“Be optimistic. Be always upbeat” Charles thinks it’s essential to look at the positive things and not to get discouraged by the problems you encounter along the way.
Charles emphasizes the importance of mental preparation as there could be setbacks in anything. It’s crucial to learn from them and then try again. This mindset makes the difference between the people who succeed and those who don’t.
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Moustafa: Hello everyone and welcome back to Passion Sundays, the best way to end a week and start another. Our guest today is a professor of planetary science who was responsible for NASA’s planetary mission that’s all putting rockets into space – Professor Charles!
Charles: Hi, how are you doing?
Moustafa: Thank you very much for being with us today! It’s such an interesting topic that I was even a flowing well introducing it, I’m so excited. Tell me more about what you do.
Charles: Well, what we do basically developing missions and spacecrafts to send them to the planet. One exactly people might be familiar with is the Rovers that was put on on Mars so we built them a few years ago and they are exploring Mars. Now we have a mission to explore Saturn. So it’s basically expanding our knowledge by sending robots to go across the solar system.
Moustafa: Amazing! And how did you end up doing this?
Charles: Well, it’s interesting because since I was a young person I grew up in the Middle East then I went to Europe and then to the United States for my doctorate. I was always fascinated by space. You know, by exploration. And I was fortunate, you know, to go to the right school to get my education in science and engineering. And then I ended working at the Jet Propulsion Lab, which is a NASA Center. Moved up in the organization to become a director of that organization for 16 years.
Moustafa: Amazing. It’s very unusual for a child who loved space, which we all did, to actually end up where they wanted to be. So you probably are one of the few who used to hold that little rocket and ended up doing it in real life.
Charles: Yeah, but I hope more people will do that because I think now space exploration… We have developed the technology and the capabilities to become more common and hopefully there will be more young people, particularly in the Middle East who will have that ambition. One perfect example is UAE is planning now a mission called ‘Hope’ and send this spacecraft to Mars in 2020. And I think that is going to create a lot of excitement and inspiration for the young people to want to become involved in things beyond what we do on our own planet. So I’m hopeful that for the future, there will be more. The UAE is taking the lead in doing space exploration.
Moustafa: I love it! I mean, you seem to be very optimistic at any stage by your character. So basically when you were young, you were hopeful that you will end up doing what you’re doing.
Charles: Well, yeah. I was hopeful but I was not sure. You can never tell what will happen in your life. You know, in the future. But I always say, like I tell my daughters: ‘You have to be optimistic in this life. You have to be confident that you can achieve anything. Like, there is an example in which people say well ‘Shoot toward the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land between the stars.’ So you have to, as a young person or an older person like me, you have to always be passionate about what you do, excited, optimistic and yes, you’ll get set back, you don’t get anything you plan on, but the key thing is not to be discouraged by the setback, to learn from it and actually try again. And actually try to do bigger things.
Moustafa: I love it. And obviously, in your area, there has been obviously a lot of trials to figure out what works. But that journey must have been also hard, it doesn’t always come as easy as it looks.
Charles: Yeah, sure.
Moustafa: How do you find your passion when times are tough?
Charles: Well, I think you have to be prepared. You have to be mentally prepared. When you’re doing exploration, there definitely will be setbacks. Not everything is going to work and that happened to every explorer, not only in space. But when you look at people like Magellan, people give him the credit that he went around the Earth for the first time by ship. But Magellan didn’t make it. Halfway through the trip he was killed. I’m not saying that all explorers will get killed. But the point is that exploration is difficult. But the payoff which comes from it is worth it. We knew when we sent missions there is possibility that they might fail. But when they succeed, the knowledge we gain from that really changed humanity thinking of doing that. So always when you explore, you have to be prepared mentally that there could be setback. And when setback happens, you just have to be prepared to say: ‘ok’. Maybe you feel bad for a day, but now let’s learn from it and try again.
Moustafa: How can you get back again, basically.
Charles: That’s right.
Moustafa: Beautiful. I love the passion that you’re conveying. ‘Well, it didn’t work. What do we do. We just get back on our feet.’
Charles: That’s right. We have to be passionate about it. Not only in that way, but in everything you do in life. Not everything works out exactly like you planned. Maybe things don’t work well and the people who give up, fall behind. And the people who try again are the people who move ahead. So you need to be thinking in that mindset.
Moustafa: Love it! How did you know from when you were young that this is truly a passion?
Charles: I think, when you look at young children, they are always curious and passionate about everything, From the time you look at the little kids when they start walking. The first time they try to walk, they fall back. But they stand up and try to walk again and fall back and then… So I think it’s a, it’s a passion. The optimism is in us as young people. And as we grow up, some people, start being because of, you know, changes and setbacks, start being discouraged. And hopefully society will teach the young not to be discouraged. You know, about setback. And be optimistic, be always upbeat. And, and it’s affected by our education, by our society, which is around us. So I think it’s important for a country, for a society to always look at the positive things that people can do and capitalize on that.
Moustafa: I love it! Professor, thank you very much for this insightful, amazing interview!
Charles: Sure, thank you!
Moustafa: I appreciate it!
Charles: Thank you! Take care!
Moustafa and Charles: Passion!
Moustafa: What do you think? I would love to hear your opinion. I really hope you found this interview as exciting as I did. If so, leave your comments on the blog below and do share it with your friends. And if you’d like ore tools, tips, techniques and exclusive interviews that I only share on my website, go to Moustafa.com. And until the next episode, live passionately!